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The Stanford Chronicles

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Chapter One

 

 

When Sam Winchester got his acceptance letter from Stanford University, he expected his older brother Dean to be fully on board with the idea of his little brother getting an education. Sam had been wrong. Other families would have been thrilled to hear that their child, sibling, or other relative had got into one of the most prestigious universities in the country. It would have given them the opportunity to brag to their middle-classed friends about how they knew someone studying law at Stanford. After all, were bragging and gossiping not the major driving forces keeping the harmony of the American suburbs intact?  

 

However, Dean and Sam had not grown up in a fancy suburb. Sam did not remember the home in Lawrence his parents used to live in before his mother died in a house fire. Sam had only been a couple of months old at the time. After that tragedy had befallen their family, John Winchester had moved to Sioux Falls to live closer to his childhood friend, Robert Singer. Bobby had lost his wife to an incurable illness only several years earlier, and John felt that if anyone would understand what he was going through, it was his faithful friend Bobby. The widowed father of two young boys turned up on his friend’s doorstep, hoping that Bobby would be able to provide a shelter for him and his family at least until John found a job and earned enough money to move out. Bobby owned his own garage, where he specialised in the repair and revamp of old cars. He had enough money on the side to feed another three mouths for the foreseeable future.

 

Weeks turned to months. Months turned to years. John Winchester managed to find jobs, but ended up being fired from most of them. He had developed a severe drinking problem since his wife’s death, which had made it difficult for employers to keep him around for too long. Sam remembered the many arguments which had often kept him up at night between his father and Bobby. On those nights, Sam would often sneak into Dean’s bed and cuddle up to his brother for comfort, something the older Winchester had never denied him. Dean had always been very protective of Sam, and even more so after Bobby kicked John out for raising his hand on Dean, threatening to call social services if John even came close to his kids again. Ever since that day, Sam and Dean had become inseparable, knowing that they only had each other and Bobby left in this world.

 

Which is why Sam had been all the more surprised by Dean’s reaction when he announced that he had been accepted into the law programme at Stanford.

 

“So, you’re leaving? Just like that?”

 

“Dean, it’s for my future. It doesn’t mean that I won’t come back. I’m not abandoning you, I’ll come back for the holidays…”

 

“You’re going to California, dude! It’s like the other end of the country”

 

The brothers had argued back and forth until Bobby decided that enough was enough. He had a long chat with Dean about not standing in Sam’s way. The kid has a shot at a better life, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna let you be an idjit about it! Sam had never been more grateful for the man’s intervention, and although his decision to leave for Stanford had strained his relationship with Dean, the younger Winchester did not regret any of it.

 

Well, he regretted agreeing to a night out with the people he always sat next to in class, but that was a completely different kettle of fish.

 

“Come on dude, cheer up a little. It’s gonna be fun”, the guy (Mike?) on his right told him. Sam hated parties. He could not even remember agreeing to this per se. He had been in his lecture listening to some professor going on about American contract law when next thing he knew, this group of people were dragging him to a frat party at five in the afternoon. Seriously, who started drinking that early?

 

Turns out, pretty much every freshman ever started drinking that early. The group directed Sam to the Florence Moor Halls of Residence on the west side of campus. The grey, slightly asymmetrical building looked nothing like the place Sam lived in. To reduce the living costs, Sam had decided to opt for a work exchange scheme. He was living with Mrs McCarthy, a charming elderly lady, who after losing her husband three years ago thought it would be nice to have someone willing to help her out with the more challenging aspects of her daily life. Sam’s job mostly involved taking her grocery shopping, helping with the chores, making sure the elderly woman kept track of her medication, and reading the newspaper to her every day, which because of her growing cataract she could not do herself.

 

The party was held on the ground floor of the residence. As soon as Sam stepped inside the confined one-bedroom flat, he felt out of place and old. It was bad enough that he applied to Stanford in his early twenties which meant that he was surrounded by people several years younger than him. Now this? The flat was filled with boozy students, most of which were probably underage, too. A couple was making out in the bedroom, too drunk to notice that they had left the door open so everyone could witness their heavy petting session. Sam ignored the appreciative whistles and followed his ‘friends’ into the living area. Several girls had already taken their shirts off and were dancing on the coffee-table in their bra and mini-skirts. Justin, probably the only person of the group whose name he had memorised, passed Sam a bottle of beer which he reluctantly accepted.

 

“Hey dude, you want a taste of this?”, Justin asked, waving a joint in Sam’s face. The taller man merely shook his head and barely managed an apologetic smile to the boy standing before him.

 

“Sorry. Got a doc’s appointment tomorrow”, Sam lied through his teeth.

 

“Ah, I hear you man. That sucks”

 

Justin left him be for the rest of the night. So, did most the people at the party. Sam was leaning awkwardly against the wall most of the time, feeling like the chaperone of the group no one had asked for or wanted there. Sam wondered if he would manage to discreetly sneak out of the flat without anyone noticing. Thinking about it, the people whom he had come in with had probably realised how boring he was by now. Sam was sure that they would not miss him, or even spare him a second thought. It’s now or never, Sam thought as he headed to the main door determined to leave the party. A young girl who looked no older than eighteen chose this exact moment to dance seductively (albeit drunkenly) in front of him and managing to block the only escape route Sam had.

 

“Hiya handsome… what they be calling ya?” The girl’s make-up was smudged around her eyes and her breath stank of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

 

“I’m Sam. Sorry, have to go”

 

“Whaaat?”, the girl whined, flicking her platinum blonde hair over her shoulder in a huff, “but the party just started. It’s only like…”

 

Sam watched with amusement as the girl lifted her slender wrist to her face, attempting to check the time on an imaginary watch. His smile quickly disappeared when he noticed her face turn all shades of green before she hunched over and began throwing up. Her puke landed mere inches away from Sam’s feet, and only God knew how he managed to avoid getting his only good pair of trainers stained. Soon enough, the host discovered the mess the young girl had made and immediately voiced his displeasure out loud.

 

“For fuck’s sake, Cheryl. That’s twice this week now!” The girl merely snorted, wiping her mouth using the cuff of her hoodie.

 

“Don’t worry, babe, the janitor’ll get it”

 

Sam already felt bad for the poor guy who would have to clean up this mess. He did not appreciate the girl’s attitude, but he also knew deep down that she was probably too drunk to realise how inconsiderate she was being. 

 

“Hey, we could always go to my flat”, a dark-skinned boy piped up, “that way you guys can call the janitor and we don’t have to put up with the smell”

 

“Yeah man, I’m game”

 

The host (whose name Sam did not know, and would not make the effort to find out) announced the change of location in a loud, boisterous voice so everyone could hear him over the music playing in the background. Everyone cheered him and his friend as they followed them outside. Sam managed to avoid the people who had dragged him to this disaster of a party in the first place. He pretended to be texting someone so people would have the common sense to leave him alone. It seemed like his plan was working, and as everyone left through the main door, Sam wondered if he should stick around until the janitor arrived. It felt like the decent thing to do, even if it was just to apologise for the mess they had caused.

 

“Hey kiddo, all your friends are outside”, a voice echoed against the bare walls of the stairwell, “don’t you wanna join them?”. The sound startled Sam ever so slightly. He spun around and came face to face with a short man perched on the second step of the staircase. The name sown on the front of his dark red t-shirt read ‘Gabriel’.

 

“Hi, I… they’re not my friends. I didn’t really want to be here”, Sam admitted somewhat sheepishly, blushing a soft shade of pink when the man raised a questioning eyebrow. “Uh, do you know how to get in contact with the custodians? Someone was sick in there, and… well, I guess I just wanted to apologise to someone for the mess”

 

The man’s puzzled expression indicated the surprise he felt at Sam’s words.

 

“Name’s Gabriel. I’m the new janitor, so I guess you can apologise to me”

 

“Oh…”, was all Sam managed to say, “well, guess someone managed to call you then?”

 

“Nope. They were all too drunk to notice that I was already cleaning up spilt booze out here” Gabriel pointed at the stairs, which only caused Sam man to blush even more. Only then did he notice the pungent smell of alcohol and the pine green cart carrying all kinds of cleaning supplies next to the short man.

 

“I’m so sorry”

 

“I don’t know why you’re apologising to me, kiddo” Gabriel shrugged his shoulders and grabbed a mop from his cart before hopping off the steps, intent on getting back to work. “Someone’s got to do deal with the mess, amiright?”  

 

“I know, but… would you like some help?”, the taller man offered, earning himself an even more confused look from the janitor.

 

“Really?”, Gabriel enquired, disbelief lacing his tone, “you want to help me clean up vomit?”

 

“Well… it’s the least I can do. I mean, I don’t have any other plans and… look, it would make me feel a lot better about the whole situation, just let me give you a hand?”

 

Gabriel seemed to consider Sam’s request, eyeing the taller man up and down suspiciously. Sam offered the smaller man a shy smile, hoping that Gabriel did not think he was being mocked. Sam genuinely wanted to help clean up the mess. After a short while, the janitor sighed in defeat.

 

“Just grab the bucket and carry it in here”

 

Sam nodded his approval and diligently grabbed the bucket filled with grimy water. As he stepped inside the flat, he heard Gabriel instruct him to empty the filthy water into the bath, rinse the tub and bring back the bucket filled with fresh warm water. The taller man immediately got to work, following Gabriel’s directives. The bathroom was even tinier than Mrs McCarthy’s, something Sam had never thought possible. He felt slightly claustrophobic during the five minutes it took him to do as the janitor had asked. Not before long, Sam brought the bucket of warm water to Gabriel and was rewarded with a grateful smile.

 

“Thanks for that. Was definitely a first…”, the smaller man commented with a smirk as he finished cleaning up the floor. Sam merely chuckled nervously.

 

“Well, I better head home now. Still got loads of stuff to do before tomorrow”

 

“Sure, kiddo”, Gabriel said, his tone reassuring, “I’ve kept you around for longer than I should have anyway. Maybe don’t go about telling that story on campus… not sure what my manager would think if he knew that I outsourced labour to a poor student for free”

 

“Alright”, Sam agreed as an amused grin appeared on his face, “I’ll make sure this stays between us”

 

Gabriel merely wiggled his eyebrows, winking jokingly at Sam as he did so. The taller man did not quite understand why he suddenly felt so out of breath. Dismissing the thought, Sam turned around and left the building, desperate to get home and shower. The weather was chilly, causing Sam to zip up his leather jacket to retain some warmth until he reached the flat he shared with Mrs McCarthy. Absent-mindedly, he dialled her number and let his host know that he was on his way, and that she should not worry.

 

The party had been a complete disaster, and it had in no way convinced Sam to take part in more social events in the future. However, all things considered, Sam’s unexpected meeting with the handsome janitor could be seen as a silver lining to this dreadful evening.

 

Sam wondered if he would ever see Gabriel again.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

 

“Alright Mrs McCarthy, I finished the dishes and I’ve also hoovered. Is there anything else you’d like me to do before I leave for the library?”, Sam asked the elderly lady, making sure to speak loud and clearly so she caught every word of it. The sound of her slippers dragging on the floor as she made her way to him and her large and gummy smile warmed his heart instantly. She was such a sweet lady, and he knew he could count himself lucky to have found her.

 

“No, no darling you’re quite alright. Thank you so much for all you’ve done” Mrs McCarthy pulled Sam down by the front of his shirt and placed a wet kiss on his cheek. Her bony hand patted his cheek affectionately as she shoved a sealed sandwich bag containing a home-made PB&J sandwich and two oranges. “Here, some brain food for you. I would have added a cookie, but I know how careful you are with your sugar intake”

 

“Thank you, Mrs McCarthy” Sam offered the tiny woman a warm smile before stuffing his lunch in his backpack. Mrs McCarthy treated him like the grandson she never had. Her own children had stopped visiting her years ago, and even though they had ended up having children of their own, the elderly woman never got to meet them. Sam felt a pinch to his heart every time he was reminded of how desperately lonely the woman would be without him around. It made him feel better about invading her space.

 

“I’m planning on coming home for 3 at the latest”, Sam informed the old woman.

 

“That’s alright, darling. Remember tomorrow I need to be at church earlier for the bake sale”

 

Sam made a mental note to remember this and to adjust his study plan accordingly. The only disadvantage of living with Mrs McCarthy is that she was a practicing Christian. Not that Sam minded, but this meant no university work on Sundays, mostly because he would be spending most of his Sundays at Church. Then in the evening, Mrs McCarthy would always insist on sharing a meal together. Sam could live with that, even though he had not been raised religious. He had always secretly believed in angels because he felt comforted by the thought that there was someone out there watching over him. Maybe even his own dead mother. As silly as it may have sounded to other people, Sam still believed this was the case.

 

“See you later, Mrs McCarthy”, Sam shouted before shutting the door behind him. He checked the insides of his pockets for change for the bus fare. He only managed to fish out 20 cents. Oh well, he could probably use the exercise anyway.

 

OoO

 

It was a beautiful day in Palo Alto. The winter sun was bright and held the promise of a mild spring. Sam enjoyed the relative freshness of the January months in California. It made a nice change from the boiling heat of the summer and early fall. It also made the walk to Stanford law school much more pleasant and less sweaty. 

 

The library was usually not too busy on Saturdays. Sam enjoyed the peace and quiet he got at the weekend when most freshmen were still hungover in their beds. Of course, University was not all about studying and being serious all the time, but Sam did not see the point in getting absolutely hammered every chance he got. He grew up with an alcoholic father, and his brother had not exactly turned out to be the epitome of sobriety either. Sam simply wanted to be different.

 

He was glad to find his favourite spot at the library empty. Ok, sue him, he was a world-class nerd. He did not really mind, for that meant that he usually ended up top of the class. Which was a pretty neat achievement at Stanford level if you asked him, and something employers might pick up on. Maybe… or perhaps some might think Sam was too boring. In any case, someone would know to value his hard work, right? Sighing heavily, he got his laptop ready and immediately started researching book references for one of his essays. Sam stared at the title blankly, mentally mind-mapping arguments for and against the need of regulations surrounding tourism in Antarctica. Oh, the joys! Sam noted down some shelf numbers and went to explore the scarce books on this topic. He knew this essay would test his patience, but he had always enjoyed a good challenge. He would prove to his professors that he had what it took to stay on the programme. Unlike some of the students there, he could not rely on the financial support of his family to see him through school. If he failed, he would cease to be entitled to the scholarship funding he depended on. That was something Sam could simply not risk.

 

“Who do we have here?” Sam thought he recognised the voice, and surely enough when he looked around his eyes fell on the handsome janitor Gabriel. The wide grin on his face had something mischievous about it. “So, you the studious one of the group, huh?”

 

“I guess you could say that”, Sam agreed, offering a shy smile in return. “You also work at the weekends?”

 

“Well, this place ain’t gonna clean itself”

 

“Of course, sorry I’m… a little bit distracted, you know” Sam held up books, each title sounding more boring than the next. “Got a lot of work to do before tomorrow. Mrs McCarthy won’t have me working on Sundays”

 

Sam wasn’t entirely sure why he felt the need to tell the janitor this, but the look of confusion on the shorter man’s face was endearing and if only for that reason, Sam did not regret sharing this little bit of information about his personal life.

 

“Why not?”

 

“Sunday’s the day of the Lord”, Sam explained matter-of-factly, noticing how Gabriel’s mouth went a perfect ‘O’ shape as realisation hit him.

 

“Yep, gotcha. I come from a very religious family, so been there, got the mug and the t-shirt. I’ve managed to dodge the past couple of Sundays”

 

Sam chuckled when Gabriel rolled his eyes, which some people might have taken offence by, however the other man seemed to enjoy the effect he had on his audience. Sam could tell that it would take much more than that to offend the janitor. It felt good not having to walk on eggshells around him. Sam had grown so accustomed to the forced diplomatic tone he put on during his weekly mock debates to avoid offending anybody, and also so his arguments could not be twisted and used against him. After a while, the process became tiring. Being able to have a banter with Gabriel without having to worry about the consequences of his actions was refreshing to say the least.

 

“Mrs McCarthy can’t drive, so I’m the assigned driver more than anything. Can’t say I practice myself, but… I suppose occasionally going to Church won’t hurt, right?”

 

“Oh believe me, it can”, Gabriel joked, but Sam felt there was some part of truth behind his mocking smile, “Right, I’ll let you get back to your work”.

 

Truth was, Sam really did not want to get back to his work, but he also knew that he did not truly have a choice in the matter. His education came first, and his aspirations at a social life would have to take the backseat for now. Even if that meant not getting to spend any more time with the friendly janitor who made him feel so at ease.

 

“Okay…”, Sam said somewhat reluctantly. Gabriel seemed to pick up on the taller man’s tone.

 

“Tell you what. My shift finishes in two hours. If you’re still around, I could treat you to a coffee or something. You’re a law student, you need your caffeine!”, Gabriel added with a cheeky wink. Sam hated to say that he considered the offer. He did not really know why. Until then he had not been interested in making friends beyond his class mates. However, something about Gabriel that Sam could not quite place made him feel curious. Curious enough to contemplate meeting up with the janitor for coffee in a couple of hours.

 

“Make that two and a half hours, and we have a deal”, Sam negotiated, knowing he would not forgive himself for neglecting his carefully organised study plan. Gabriel eyed Sam carefully before lowering his gaze and licking his lips in what appeared to be a nervous tick. It almost looked like Gabriel was second-guessing his suggestion. Sam did not quite know why his heart skipped a beat at the possibility.

 

“I’ll meet you at the Starbucks down the road”, the shorter man finally said. Sam could not contain the relieved grin from spreading across his face.

 

“Can’t wait”

 

OoO

 

Sam had managed to write more than he thought. He was nearly halfway through his arguments and had written part of an introduction. It did not look like much yet, but a good chunk of the work had been done. Which is why he did not feel as guilty about meeting up with Gabriel for coffee. The walk from the library to the Starbucks was invigorating. After being cooped up in the dusty law library for several hours, Sam felt like his mind was finally free to wander and be distracted. He ate an orange on his way to the coffee shop, and by the time he finished savouring his snack, he had arrived at the desired location. Gabriel already sat at one of the tables set up outside, nose buried in his phone. Sam noticed that the janitor had not changed out of his uniform.

 

“Hey”, Sam greeted the shorter man, whose eyes shot up from his phone as soon as he heard the other man’s voice.

 

“Oh, hi sorry I didn’t see you coming. How’s the essay going?”, Gabriel asked immediately, sounding quite distracted.

 

“Fine, I did some work on it so I can have the day off tomorrow without feeling too guilty about it”

 

“I’m glad I didn’t distract you too much”

 

The two men entered the coffee shop and each ordered their respective coffees. Sam protested when Gabriel paid for both drinks, but the janitor knew how to be firm and left no room for argument. This left Sam thanking him repeatedly until they sat down at a table.

 

“Jeez man, relax. You’re a poor student, I earn my own money. I can spare 5$ for your boring latte”, the janitor jested, which made Sam instantly feel more at ease. He had never liked the thought of being in anyone’s debt, but Gabriel’s nonchalant tone clearly indicated that he genuinely did not worry about spending that money on Sam.

 

“Still. It’s very generous”, Sam argued quietly as he took a sip of his coffee.

 

“It’s 5$, don’t sweat it”

 

These words were followed by a prolonged silence. Neither men quite knew where to take the conversation from there. This rendezvous had been very spontaneous, and it gradually became clear to Sam that Gabriel felt just as clueless about them meeting up than he was. The two of them had clearly acted on instinct, and the worry that the janitor was earnestly beginning to regret his decision was gnawing at Sam.

 

“I just realised I never thought to ask your name”, Gabriel mused out loud, finally breaking the uncomfortable silence between them. Sam’s eyebrows furrowed in disbelief at Gabriel’s words.

 

“Sam. Well, my actual name’s Samuel, but I’ve always been Sam”

 

“I’m so sorry, you must think me very rude…”, Gabriel apologised, his cheeks turning pink with barely concealed embarrassment.

 

“Don’t sweat it” Gabriel visibly relaxed as the shadow of a smile graced his lips at the way Sam had used his own phrasing against him.

 

“Samuel. I like that name. It suits you”, the janitor said.

 

“What do you mean by that?” Sam briefly wondered if the other man was making fun of him. No one had ever told him that they liked his name. Samuel sounded old, archaic even. Nobody ever called him by that name, yet for some reason the way it had rolled off Gabriel’s tongue so effortlessly made Sam feel all giddy inside.

 

“Samuel means ‘God has heard’. It was the name of the last of the ruling judges in the old Testament. And since, you know, since you’re studying law, I think it suits you”, Gabriel explained. Sam was impressed by the other man’s knowledge.  

 

“I never knew that. You learn something new every day”

 

“Oh trust me, I’ve been waiting for years for the perfect opportunity to get rid of my ridiculously extensive bible knowledge”, Gabriel admitted, rolling his eyes as he did so, “the most annoying thing about Sunday school is that you’re taught things that will rarely come up in conversation. So that leaves me with countless of biblical ‘fun facts’ that will forever stay trapped in my brain."

 

“Well, just to relieve you from your burden… do you have any more biblical fun facts you would like to share with me?” Gabriel allowed silence to settle once again as he considered Sam’s question briefly. The latter wondered if he had said something he should not have.

 

“I would love that”

 

And that’s how Sam learned that the word ‘bible’ originally stemmed from the Greek ta biblia, roughly translating to ‘the scrolls’ or ‘the books’. What’s more, the Bible was not a single work but a collection of works from a wide variety of authors, such as shepherds, kings, farmers, priests, poets, scribes, and fisherman. Authors also included traitors, embezzlers, adulterers, murders, and auditors (Gabriel did not learn that in Sunday school – he got that information off a pamphlet advertising an atheist community in his home town).

 

“Also, the longest word in the bible is Maher-shalal-hash-baz… yep, that’s a word. Don’t ask me what it means”

 

Sam discovered a facet of the other man that truly fascinated him, and he was intent on finding out more about Gabriel’s hobbies, his favourite movies and TV shows, his thoughts on controversial topics, his favourite books... The pair spoke for hours, not realizing how quickly time flew by. Only when Sam’s phone buzzed in his pocket did the two notice that the sun had begun to set over Palo Alto.

 

“Sorry, I have to take this”, Sam apologised before answering the call, “Hey Mrs McCarthy, everything alright?”

 

“Oh darling, did you forget to keep track of time again?”, the old lady on the other line enquired, sounding genuinely concerned. Sam felt guilty for causing the poor woman to worry so much when he had been enjoying a good time with his new friend.

 

“Yeah, I’m so sorry about that, I’ll be on my way soon” Sam rose from his chair as he spoke, shooting Gabriel an apologetic look as he did so. The janitor merely dismissed him with a wave of his hand, flashing him a genuine smile.

 

“It’s getting dark outside, you better catch a bus. Be careful”

 

“I will be. I’ll see you soon”

 

Sam hung up and quickly slid his phone back in his pocket before grabbing his backpack and effortlessly throwing it over his shoulder. Gabriel was keeping close to Sam as the two of them left the coffee shop. The taller man was painfully aware of the warm presence behind him.

 

“Well, guess that’s where we say fare thee well”, Gabriel announced when the two had exited the Starbucks, “it was great getting to know you more, Samshine. I really enjoyed our little conversation”

 

“So did I”, the other man admitted, rubbing his neck nervously as he did so. God, this was ridiculous. He was acting like an awkward teenager. “I would also like to do it again, I mean… if you don’t mind? You seem like a nice guy, and you made me realize today that I’m in desperate need of social interaction” Gabriel snorted at the statement.

 

“Yeah, you are! There are more things in heaven and earth, Samuel Winchester, than are dreamt of in your law books …” Sam smiled goofily at the reference.

 

“Guess on top of being a bible nerd, you also know your Shakespeare well…” Gabriel merely shrugged his shoulders modestly. Sam checked the time on his watch and cursed under his breath. “Right, I really need to get going. Ehm… do you mind giving me your number?”

 

“It’d be my pleasure, sugar”

 

The two exchanged numbers and promised to stay in touch. Sam had been walking for barely ten minutes when he felt his phone buzz once again in his pocket.

 

Did you know that Shakespeare was most likely involved in translating The King James Bible? Also, you up for coffee on Monday again?

 

Sam could not help but break into a wide grin as he read the text message on the tiny screen. This Gabriel guy would undoubtedly turn out to be great friend, and Sam was convinced that they would end up spending a great deal of time together.

 

Interesting! Sure, I’ve got class in the morning though. How about 2pm?

 

It did not take long for Gabriel to reply.

 

Coolio :-) I know just the place. I’ll text you the address later.

 

That evening, Sam would repeatedly catch himself re-reading Gabriel’s message over and over again.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

 

 

Sam’s routine had not changed much over the past three weeks. He still regularly went to the library, buried his nose in dusty law books, caught up on lectures when he was at his own desk at home… and generally avoided social gatherings and frat parties. He still drove Mrs McCarthy to church every Sunday, and shared dinner with her on those evenings. However, one aspect of Sam Winchester’s life had changed since attending the dreaded frat party three weeks ago; he had made a new friend. And they would meet every Monday after Sam’s International Corporate and Commercial Law lecture.

 

Sam had assumed the existence of an unspoken agreement between him and Gabriel stipulating that they would meet every Monday for coffee. It was also Gabriel’s day off besides Sundays. It just made sense for Sam to meet his new friend then. The janitor had yet to complain about the arrangement, but Sam was beginning to worry that he was bothering Gabriel with his eagerness. Maybe he was the only one who wanted to make their meetings a weekly occurrence. After all, Sam had nothing going for himself. He was not exactly the party-type of guy, and would much rather stay inside with a good book and a hot chocolate. More importantly, being so focused on achieving academic excellence, Sam had forgotten how to relax and have fun. Every minute he did not spend studying fuelled his anxiety and made him feel guilty. Gabriel was different. He did not let anyone tell him how to live his life: he just did whatever made him happy, and Sam could not help but admire him for that. Gabriel had a twisted sense of humour, but Sam did not mind so much. Even Gabriel’s darker jokes were told with such mirth in his tone that it was hard not to give into the infectious smile.

 

Gabriel was ‘quirky’, as Bobby would put it, but Sam loved that about his new friend.

 

Sam’s train of thought was interrupted by the muffled sound of his phone buzzing on his bed. Usually, he would switch his phone off when studying to avoid getting distracted, but Sam must have forgotten to do so that day. Staring in defeat at the article on his desk, the young man sighed heavily before dropping his pencil and rolling his chair to the bed to grab his phone. His brain needed a break anyway. His face lit up when he noticed Gabriel’s name pop up on the screen.

 

Hey Samoose. Fancy a movie tomorrow night? They’re showing King Kong!!!

 

Sam laughed to himself as he read Gabriel’s message. He could not explain the fluttering feeling in his stomach at the thought of meeting the handsome janitor not once, but twice this same week.

 

King Kong sounds great. What time?

 

Sam did not have the heart to tell Gabriel that he had already seen the movie over Christmas when he had returned to Sioux Falls to see his brother and Bobby. Dean wanted to bond with Sam again after the way he had reacted to his little brother leaving for Stanford. The younger Winchester had appreciated the effort, but something between him and his brother had changed. No matter how hard Dean tried, Sam could not forgive the selfishness. However, for the sake of keeping the peace over Christmas, the younger Winchester had agreed to go to the movies, and he had found himself enjoying the plot enough that he was willing to see it again with Gabriel.

 

Movie starts at 6pm, Stanford Theatre. My treat. Don’t be late, Samsquatch ;-).  

 

Sam knew he was grinning like an idiot as he confirmed the time with Gabriel. He also did not care.

 

OoO

 

“Mrs McCarthy, I won’t be in for dinner tonight” Sam devoured his toast and washed it down with coffee, burning his throat and palate in the process. “I’m going to the cinema to see the new King Kong movie”

 

“Oh, how wonderful”, Mrs McCarthy exclaimed, her friendly brown eyes lighting up with joy at the news. Sam felt slightly taken aback by her reaction, not recognising what she was getting so excited over. Noticing his surprised expression, the elderly lady’s features softened considerably. “So, who’s the lucky girl?”

 

“Excuse me?”, Sam asked, his voice higher-pitched than usual. Mrs McCarthy furrowed her eyebrows at his question.

 

“Well, who’s the lucky girl you’re taking out on a date, Samuel?” Understanding dawned on Sam as he finally grasped the meaning of what the elderly woman was implying.

 

“Oh, no it’s not like that. I’m going with my friend Gabriel”, Sam explained with an amused smile. Mrs McCarthy’s confused expression only intensified at her protégé’s words.

 

“You’ve never mentioned that friend before. Is he someone you’ve met at your school?”

 

“Yeah, sort of” Sam smiled as he recalled their first meeting. There was that fluttering feeling in his stomach again, and the young man briefly wondered why he always felt nauseated when thinking about Gabriel. It was not until Mrs McCarthy cleared her throat that Sam realised she was expecting some form of elaboration on the topic.

 

“Uh, Gabriel is a janitor at the university. I helped him clean up a mess one night several weeks ago, and we’ve been friends since” Mrs McCarthy nodded her head slowly, almost as if pondering whether Sam was lying. Why she looked so suspicious Sam did not understand. He had never lied to her. She had always been nice to him, and the least he could do was show the elderly lady the same respect as she showed him.

 

“He an older boy?”, Mrs McCarthy asked suddenly, her tone as protective as Dean’s when he was trying to get information out of Sam. It took the young man all his self-control not to roll his eyes.

 

“He’s twenty-eight”

 

“Oh dear, don’t you want to be making friends with people your own age?” Sam felt oddly defensive at the elderly woman’s statement. He was very aware of Gabriel’s age, but why should it matter? The two of them got on well, and Sam already considered the janitor to be his friends. Friendship was not defined by age.

 

“People my own age don’t share the same interests as me, plus most people my age don’t respect the fact that I don’t consider binge drinking a form of entertainment”, Sam explained as calmly as he could. Mrs McCarthy smiled fondly, but the young man recognised a patronising look when he saw one.

 

“Oh darling, you’re far too serious for your own good. You’ve got a lifetime of responsibilities ahead of you, now is the time to have fun. But I won’t get involved; you’re smart enough to decide for yourself who you want to be friends with” Mrs McCarthy cleared Sam’s dirty dishes off the table and disappeared into the kitchen. Sam let out a relieved sigh. He checked his timetable pinned to the fridge to quickly refresh his memory on which classes he had that day. As Sam was about to pack a bag for the day, Mrs McCarthy shoved him a Tupperware box containing his lunch.

 

“You have to forgive me for being so curious, Sam. It’s just that I worry about you like you’re my own son. While you’re living with me, I have a duty to make sure you stay healthy and safe. I don’t want you hanging out with the wrong kind of crowd, you understand? But if you think this Gabriel is a decent man, who am I to argue”

 

The caring smile on Mrs McCarthy’s face was enough to melt Sam’s heart. He gently pulled her into a quick embrace, hoping that he managed to convey all the gratitude he felt towards her and her hospitality.

 

“Thanks, Mrs McCarthy. I promise you, Gabriel is a good man”, Sam assured the elderly woman.

 

“I’ll be the judge of that, sweetheart. Alright, go out and have fun. Let me know when you’re on your way home”

 

 

OoO

 

Sam was always one for punctuality, but it turned out that Gabriel was one for showing up early. Sam waved at his friend from the other side of the road as he waited at the crosswalk for the traffic lights to change. Gabriel was quick to reciprocate the gesture heartily. The smaller man jokingly raised his arm above his head and tapped at his imaginary watch, clearly implying that Sam was late. As soon as Sam managed to cross to the other side of the road, he shot Gabriel an incredulous look.

 

“I’ll have you know that I’m right on time”, the taller man said, enjoying the playful smile that graced Gabriel’s lips.

 

“Actually, you would have been right on time if it weren’t for the lights”, Gabriel corrected, waggling his eyebrows teasingly. Sam was briefly at a loss for words, huffing loudly as he checked his watch and realised that he was, in fact, one whole minute ‘late’. Gabriel merely chuckled before affectionately clapping Sam’s shoulder. “It’s alright, as my old man used to say, the best things are worth waiting for”

 

Sam did not know what to make of that last comment, so he settled for offering his friend a shy smile. Gabriel’s warm golden eyes reflected reassurance and kindness. Sam immediately knew that Mrs McCarthy’s worries were unfounded. His gut feeling told him that Gabriel could be trusted. After all, are the eyes not reputedly the mirrors to someone’s soul?

 

“Come on, I don’t want to be late to see the best movie of the year”, Gabriel urged Sam, pulling the taller man by the sleeve of his jacket as he did so. Sam merely smiled as he followed his friend into the cinema.

 

OoO

 

“I’m just saying, it took them about 70 minutes to get to Kong Island. I’m convinced Peter Jackson could have shortened the movie considerably”, Sam argued, unable to hold back a small smile at Gabriel’s playful eye-roll.

 

“In my most humble opinion, they were 70 well-spent minutes. Jackson is a legend, even if it takes him a while to get to the point. I mean, the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy is a testimony of that, but that’s getting away from the point”

 

“Which is?”

 

Gabriel stuffed the remaining of his popcorn in his mouth before throwing the empty container in the trash can. He clearly struggled to chew the food in his mouth judging by the way he covered his mouth to avoid the popcorn from falling out. The sight looked so innocent it reminded Sam of the rare times Bobby would take him and Dean out to the cinema when they were kids, and the brothers would stuff themselves with candy and nachos until they felt sick. This happy childhood memory made Sam feel all fuzzy inside.

 

“The point is, the movie was awesome, so shut up”, the shorter man finally uttered after he managed to swallow his mouthful of popcorn. Sam let out a slightly amused chuckle, which was met with a soft smile from Gabriel. “Tonight was awesome. I had lots of fun”

 

“Yeah, I did as well… even though it was my second time seeing the movie”

 

Gabriel raised an inquisitive eyebrow at Sam’s confession.

 

“Second time? You should have said, we could’ve gone to see another movie”, Gabriel told the other man.

 

“Well, you seemed excited and I didn’t really mind which movie we went to see. I was just glad to get out of the house and away from my workload”, Sam admitted, feeling slightly guilty and selfish. However, Gabriel did not seem offended in the least. In fact, his eyes lit up cheerfully.

 

“That’s very sweet of you. It’s been a while since anyone was so considerate about my feelings”

 

Despite the joking tone, Sam could sense that there was more to that comment than Gabriel was comfortable sharing. Sam had never been one to pry though, and he understood that some people had their secrets they kept close to their hearts. After all, he was one of those people too. A comfortable silence settled between the two men as they walked down University Avenue. Sam had not felt this carefree in a while. With each passing minute, his conviction that Mrs McCarthy had been worried over nothing was confirmed. Gabriel was good for him, and Sam would be damned if he let that friend leave his life.

 

“So, you went to see the movie with your girlfriend or something?”, Gabriel finally broke the silence, his voice sounding slightly insecure.

 

“My brother. I don’t have a girlfriend” Sam thought he heard Gabriel let out a relieved sigh, however he brushed it off as his own imagination. There was no reason why the other man should feel reassured by the fact that Sam was single.

 

“Oh, I… I didn’t know you had siblings”

 

“T’was always just me and my older brother, Dean. I went back to Sioux Falls over Christmas and since we parted on bad terms I thought it would be good to bond again”, Sam explained vaguely, hoping Gabriel would take the hint and drop the subject. Fortunately, the other man did not pry.

 

“Sioux Falls, huh? I could’ve sworn you were from Texas” Sam laughed out loud at the comment.

 

“Texas? Sorry dude, but I was born in Kansas. Your radar is well off”, the taller man joked.

 

“It clearly is. Although I’m sure you would fit the cowboy look”, Gabriel told Sam with a cheeky wink.

 

“I don’t know about the boots and the hat, but I definitely suit flannel”, the taller man joked back.

 

Sam and Gabriel parted ways with a friendly hug. The janitor confirmed that he would meet Sam for coffee on the coming Monday. Sam hear Gabriel softly whistling to himself as he walked down Hale Street, his hands stuffed in his pockets and a slight spring in his step. Gabriel always acted so happy and carefree. Having someone in his life who at least tried to look at the bright side of things was exactly what Sam needed. He was eternally grateful that fate had put Gabriel on his path.

 

Shaking his head slightly, Sam turned around and headed back home.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

 

The wooden bench underneath Sam crunched as he fidgeted, earning himself scornful glances from the faithful gathered at the St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Palo Alto. Mrs McCarthy offered him a reassuring smile and a friendly pat on the leg. Sam’s muscles felt stiff from sitting on the uncomfortable seat. Seriously, he was giving up precious studying time to worship God, was he not at least allowed to bring a cushion to mass? Sam reminded himself that he was doing this out of respect for the elderly woman who had given him a roof over his head. He did not necessarily consider himself a devout Catholic, but Sam had always believed in something greater. Whether you called them angels, God, or destiny… he was convinced that something bigger than him watched over all of humanity, playing them like pieces on a chess board and deciding their fate for them. Dean and Bobby had never understood that point of view, but that was the beautiful thing about faith: it did not need explaining. Sam liked the idea that even in his darkest moments, he could find light in his faith.

 

The bells of the Church chimed loudly announcing the start of mass. The last couple of people entered the building and took place on the free benches. Some were carrying their own copies of the Bible, while the others settled for those provided by the church. Sam sometimes read from Mrs McCarthy’s Bible, but mostly he spent his time in mass reflecting and meditating silently. In Sam’s eyes, there was no right or wrong way to worship God. The young man noticed with surprise that a larger crowd than usual had gathered in the church building. He tried to remember his major Christian holidays, but could not think of any that fell in the month of February. Strange. Sam was pulled out of his reverie by a finger tapping his shoulder. The young man turned around with a confused frown on his face, only to be met with warm golden eyes.

 

“Hiya there, stranger”, Gabriel greeted him, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. Sam’s face broke into a wide grin as he recognised his friend. He awkwardly twisted around on the bench so he could get a better look at him.

 

“I didn’t know you’d be here today. Mrs McCarthy, this is my friend Gabriel. He’s the one I went to see King Kong with last week”, Sam introduced the other man to the elderly woman sitting next to him. Mrs McCarthy flashed Gabriel a friendly smile as she reached out her hand in greeting.

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Gabriel”, she said, her voice hushed as was usually the case when she sat in mass.

 

“The pleasure is all mine, ma’am”

 

Sam could not help but frown at Gabriel’s tense demeanour. That kind of behaviour was strange considering the other man’s otherwise cheerful attitude. Maybe it was the formal setting that had caused this change in the blonde’s behavior. Sam was soon to find out the reason for his friend’s rigidity when he was joined by two older men and a young teenage boy. The dark-haired man rested his piercing green eyes on Sam briefly, offering a brief nod of acknowledgement as he sat down next to Gabriel.

 

“Chrm uh Sam… these are my brothers, Michael, Lucien and Castiel”, Gabriel introduced the three people in succession. The green-eyed man Michael did not bother to utter a single word of greeting to Sam, which did nothing to earn himself his affections. Lucien, a tall blonde man, wore what Sam could only consider a highly inappropriate outfit for the occasion: a dark fishnet top over dark ripped jeans, burgundy red Doc Martens boots and an identically coloured leather jacket. Sam noticed the silver stud in Lucien’s nose straight away, but did his best not to linger on it. The teenage boy, going by the name Castiel, looked shy and quiet. He was dressed smartly in a dark suit, like his older brother Michael, and on his lap rested a copy of the Bible. Mrs McCarthy had already returned to her quiet contemplative state, leaving Sam to fend for himself in this awkward situation. He had no idea what to say to Gabriel, and judging by the way his friend avoided all eye-contact, talking was probably the last thing on the other man’s mind.

 

“I’m happy to see you here”, Sam finally said with a soft smile, causing Gabriel to meet his eyes briefly, “We haven’t talked much since the movie”

 

“Yeah. I know. Sorry about that, I’ve been busy” Gabriel’s tone was dismissive, and Sam hated to admit that the sharpness in his friend’s voice hurt him. Michael was eyeing the two of them closely, almost as if analysing every bit of their conversation. Sam noticed the dirty glare Gabriel’s older brother shot him whenever Sam addressed his friend. Whatever this guy had against him, he could piss right off.

 

“The mass is about to start, dear”, Mrs McCarthy informed Sam, who reluctantly turned around to face the altar. Soon, the choir broke into song as the priest made his way to front of the church. Everyone rose from the benches in almost military fashion, standing together in respect of God’s presence. Sam straightened his suit jacket slightly as he stood, casting a furtive glance over his shoulder at Gabriel. His friend managed a cheeky wink, which slightly reassured Sam. Gabriel was dressed in navy suit trousers and a white shirt. The formal attire made Gabriel looked older, and more serious, but Sam found himself welcoming the change. With a final smile, the taller man focused his attention on the mass.

 

“In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, the priest declared, signing himself with the Sign of the Cross, a gesture reciprocated by everyone in the church before the room was filled with a collective ‘amen’. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”

 

OoO

 

“Father Jason seemed a bit tired today. I wonder if his cold has gotten worse since last Sunday”, Mrs McCarthy mused to herself as her and Sam exited the Church, “at least he got rid of that nasty cough”

 

“Careful of the step, Mrs McCarthy”, Sam advised, strengthening his hold on the woman’s frail arm as she leaned on him for balance.

 

“You are too nice to me, my dear”, the elderly woman said with a smile in her voice. Sam looked around to see if he could make out Gabriel anywhere. He was worried about his friend’s behavior, and just wanted to make sure he was ok. Gabriel had seemed painfully awkward inside the church, which was unlike him. Even his cheeky gesture at Sam had felt off.

 

“Hey, Samoose. Didn’t think I’d let ya go without saying goodbye”

 

Speaking of the devil. Sam followed the sign of Gabriel’s voice and saw the smaller man standing at the bottom of the stairs surrounded by his brothers. Michael looked impatient to leave, while Lucien appeared to be sulking in the corner. Young Castiel merely stood close to Gabriel, lowering his gaze when Sam offered him a tentative smile. It was almost as if stepping out of the church had turned the blonde into a completely different man. He was back to his teasing self, and seemed suddenly unfazed by his brothers’ presence.  

 

“Oh Gabriel”, Mrs McCarthy spoke before Sam had a chance to reply, “I apologise if I seemed rude in there, but I don’t like being too vocal in the house of God. It just feels so… disrespectful.”

 

“Now, don’t you be worrying about that, ma’am”, Gabriel reassured her, “Sam has told me loads about you”

 

“All good, I hope”, the elderly woman joked as she turned her attention to the other men, “and you must be Gabriel’s family?”

 

“Yes, ma’am”, Michael spoke, his voice surprisingly soft and cordial. Sam felt a shiver run down his spine, although he could not explain why he felt so uneasy around the man. “My name is Michael, and these are my younger brothers Lucien and Castiel. You and Gabriel seem already acquainted”

 

“Now let me guess, your parents had a penchant for angel names, did they?”, Mrs McCarthy enquired curiously.

 

“That’s correct, ma’am”, Michael confirmed somewhat stiffly. Gabriel clapped his brother on the shoulder, rolling his eyes jokingly as he addressed Sam and the elderly lady again.

 

“Forgive my brother, his people skills are quite rusty since he came back from the war. He doesn’t mean to be an ass most of the time”

 

“Gabriel!”, Michael hissed between clenched teeth as he sent a warning glared Gabriel’s way. Sam and Mrs McCarthy offered what they hoped were polite smiles, but probably came across as rather stiff. Gabriel merely grinned at his audience, clearly proud of the show he was putting on.

 

“Can we leave now?”, Lucien complained petulantly, “I have rehearsal with the band at 2”

 

“We’ll leave when I say so”, Michael told the blonde sharply, earning himself an annoyed grunt from the teenager.

 

“Why do you keep dragging me to church? I don’t even want to be here. You don’t force Gabriel to go every week, how come he can pick and choose when he shows up?”

 

“For as long as you live under my roof, you will follow my rules! End of story”, Michael explained as calmly as he could, ignoring the remark concerning his other brother.

 

“Ah see, Luci, that’s where you missed the trick”, Gabriel piped up cheerfully, although Sam perceived the sarcasm behind the jovial front, “Haven’t been happier since I moved out. You should try it sometime!”

 

The tension in the air was almost palpable, and Sam noticed how the elderly woman next to him shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. The two of them were clearly intruding on a family squabble, and although Gabriel did not seem to mind washing his dirty laundry in public, Sam knew it was the decent thing to allow them some privacy.

 

“I think it’s time for us to leave”, Sam offered gently. Gabriel looked slightly disappointed, but did not object his friend’s words.

 

“Yes, I think we should do the same”, Michael announced, more for the sake of Sam and Mrs McCarthy, “I’ve booked a table for half 12, and we’re already running late. Sorry you had to witness this”

 

The apology did not sound sincere, and Sam found himself disliking this Michael guy more and more with each passing minute. A glance at young Castiel had Sam’s heart to clenching uncomfortably in his chest. The boy looked trapped between a rock and a hard place, yet he remained quiet about his predicament, following Michael and Lucien diligently as they walked away. Gabriel lingered back, unsure whether he should feel apologetic about the way he and his family had acted around Sam and Mrs McCarthy.

 

“So, still on for coffee tomorrow, or did my family put you off hanging out with me completely?”

 

There was genuine worry in the way Gabriel asked that question, which made Sam’s heart swell with fondness. The fact that his friend even considered that possibility was ridiculous, but Gabriel was clearly more insecure that he let on.

 

“I wouldn’t miss our coffee breaks for the world”, Sam reassured the smaller man, whose face lit up instantly at those words.

 

“Awesome. See you then, Sam”

 

Gabriel finally joined his brothers, who stood impatiently at a distance waiting for him. Mrs McCarthy began ranting about people’s incapability to sort out their family disagreements in private, but Sam was only half-tuned into the conversation, occasionally humming in agreement for effect. His mind kept wandering back to Gabriel and the way his mood changed when his brothers were around. Something about the situation foxed Sam. They had never discussed their family lives much, but he had always assumed that Gabriel got on well with his family. Why else would he always be so happy, and so optimistic about everything? Sam remembered Bobby telling him one day that often, the people who have had it hard in life are the ones who smile the brightest. Maybe that was the case for Gabriel, too? Had things at home always been so difficult? And what were his parents’ views on their bickering?

 

“Sam? Are you alright?”, Mrs McCarthy asked him, concern clear in her voice. Sam snapped out of his musing, his eyes focusing on the frail woman next to him. Her eyes looked up at him with worry.

 

“Yeah, I’m fine”, Sam quickly tried to reassure her. Mrs McCarthy was not one to be fooled, but if she wanted to object she kindly refrained from doing so.

 

“In that case, would you be so kind as to open to car? The cold does nothing for my arthritis”

 

Sam felt a blush creep up on his cheeks as he unlocked the car. The two of them did not speak on the drive back to the flat. Sam’s thoughts kept wandering back to Gabriel, his curiosity progressively starting to get the better of him. Could he ask his friend about his family the next time he saw him? Or should he act like the scene outside the church had never happened? Sam did not know if he would be able to do that. He wanted to know more about Gabriel’s family, but part of him knew that this meant telling his friend more about his own father, the alcoholism, the abandonment issues, the death of his mother… and Sam was not sure if he was ready for that. No one apart from Dean and Bobby knew how hard everything had been for the young man. Not even Mrs McCarthy.

 

“You know, dear”, the elderly woman finally spoke as Sam parked the car, “Your friend will be fine. Everyone falls out with their family at some point. For all we know, they all just had a bad week and were taking it out on each other”

 

“Yeah, maybe” Sam did not feel like talking much. Although he knew Gabriel would be alright, he wondered how the man truly felt on the inside. Was he sad? Mad? Sad-mad?

 

“Don’t worry so much, Samuel, or you’re going to worry yourself into a quick grave. Come now, I’ll cook you my signature meatloaf tonight, you’ve been looking far too scrawny for my taste lately. But before I do that, I think a nap will do you good!”

 

Sam had to admit that he felt drained. A nap was probably all he needed. He tended to overthink stuff too much when he was running on little sleep. Sam offered Mrs McCarthy a grateful smile, thanking her for her kindness. He helped her get up the stairs and settled her into the comfortable armchair once they were inside the flat. After he made sure she was okay, Sam headed to his own room and pulled the curtains across the window so the place was immersed in darkness. He let his body fall onto the mattress heavily, feeling sleep lurking over him like a creepy shadow. Before he closed his eyes, Sam checked his phone out of habit, noticing that he had one unread text. It was from Gabriel.

 

Hey Samoose. Sorry about today, safe to say Michael doesn’t bring up the best in me. If you’ll let me make it up to you, how about pizza and a movie next Friday at my place?

 

A small smile appeared on Sam’s lips as he replied with a short sounds fun, see you then. With that single message, all his worries seemed to vanish instantly. He closed his eyes and drifted into a peaceful sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

 

Sam dreaded these moments more than anything, which was sad to admit considering he only called his brother once every two weeks or so. Talking to Dean on the phone often felt like a chore rather than something Sam looked forward to. His brother would mostly ask questions about Stanford, trying hard not to comment on how Sam never called, but dropping passive aggressive statements here and there to make his little brother feel bad. At least, that’s how Sam perceived it. Bobby had tried to explain to him that Dean did not know how to express feelings, and the comments Sam took personally were his brother’s way of telling him that he was missed at home. The younger Winchester rarely saw where Bobby was coming from, but he accepted the older man’s words nonetheless. He always meant well, after all.

 

“Hey Sammy, long time since we spoke”, Dean’s voice reached his ears soon after Sam had dialled his number.

 

“Hey, Dean. How are you?”

 

“I’ve been worse, I guess. Weather here is miserable,  does something to a man’s mood. How’re things in sunny California?”

 

“Alright. School is going well, I handed it some essays already and got good feedback from professors” Sam ventured into the topic of school more easily this time around, which surprised him. He wished that one day, Dean would tell him how proud he was that his brother was doing so well at Stanford. He never seemed to care enough to comment on Sam’s progress, too focused on the fact that his little brother was far away and never called. One day, maybe.

 

“Mhm. You’ve been doing anything else apart from studying like the big nerd you are?”

 

But today was clearly not going to be that day. Sam refrained from sighing loudly as he tried to compose himself.

 

“I have, actually”, he said in a matter-of-fact tone, “I made a new friend and we’ve been hanging out a lot together”

 

“That’s great news, Sammy”, Dean told him, the sound of his voice betraying the fact that he was smiling, “so what’s her name?”

 

Of course he would think that Sam meant a girl. Because to Dean, that was the only thing worth living for. Women and booze. Sam wondered if his brother would ever grow out of that teenage mentality. Why would he not feel as enthusiastic about Sam’s grades? It felt like hooking up with girls was the only achievement that would make Dean proud.

 

“It’s nothing like that, Dean. His name is Gabriel”

 

“Oh…  I know they’re progressive in Cali, but really?”

 

Sam could not hold back his exasperated huff any longer. He knew that Dean was trying to mess with him, but that was something else Sam felt frustrated with. He had never dared tell Dean that he felt attracted to both sexes, because he had a fair idea of how his brother would react if it came out that Sam was bi. It would not go down well, to put it mildly.

 

“Jerk… and you wonder why I never call”

 

“Oh come on, Sammy, I was joking. I’m glad you have a friend. You work too hard”

 

Yeah, because unlike some people, Sam wanted to secure himself a good future. That would not happen if he neglected his studies to fit in with the cool kids, who got drunk every weekend of those woke up in bed with a different person every second night. Sam was not that kind of person, and going to Stanford would not change that. The earlier Dean would accept that, the better for their relationship.

 

“Is Bobby in?”, Sam asked, hoping Dean would take the hint. The other line momentarily went quiet, and the younger Winchester briefly wondered if they had been disconnected. Suddenly, the silence was broken by Dean clearing his throat purposefully.

 

“Sure. I’ll get him for ya” His brother’s tone was harsher and more tense. Sam felt a pinch to his heart when he realised how dismissive he must have sounded. He thought about apologising, but why should he always have to be the bigger person? Dean needed to understand once and for all that his attitude was not okay, and Sam would not take it any longer.

 

“Talk to ya later, Sammy”, he heard Dean say before the phone was being handed over to someone else. Sam did not even have the time to respond when he heard Bobby’s grumpy voice greet him.

 

“Watcha sayin’, kiddo?”

 

“Hey Bobby. Just wanted to check in with you guys…”, Sam said, knowing full well that Bobby could tell when he was lying.

 

“You mean, you wanted to check in with me… you didn’t really give a rat’s ass about Dean, didja?” The man’s voice was not accusatory, but rather matter-of-factly. He was stating the most blatant of facts, and Sam hated himself for letting it come to that point. He and his brother were now officially estranged, just like Mrs McCarthy was from her own family. How very ironic.

 

“Look, you know how he gets when I tell him stuff…”, Sam tried to justify his behaviour, but Bobby cut him off brusquely.

 

“You two chuckleheads need to get a grip. You’re all you have left in this world besides me. When I’m gone, that’s it: it’ll just be you, and Dean. Now are ya really gonna push him away just because ya idjits have different opinions?”

 

“Bobby…”

 

“Don’t ‘Bobby’ me, boy! I’ve had it with your childish bickering on the frickin’ phone, I ain’t payin’ no bill to hear you two resent each other more and more with every call. Either ya get your crap together, or I swear to God I’ll drive down to California myself and butt your heads together so hard you’ll forget your own names, understood?” Sam could not help but smile sadly as he listened to Bobby’s umpteenth rant about the brothers’ relationship. The younger Winchester faintly heard Dean arguing something unintelligible in the background. Even if Dean was a dick sometimes, Sam did miss him more than he cared to admit.

 

“Can I speak to Dean, please?”, Sam finally conceded. True, he was fed up of being the bigger person, but someone had to be, right? Dean was far too stubborn for his own good, but that was Dean and no one would ever manage to change his ways. Sam just had to accept the fact that his brother was bad at showing emotions. Bobby muttered ‘idjits’ under his breath one last time before handing the phone back to Dean.

 

“What?”

 

“I’ve got two weeks off starting March 24th. If you want to come over to visit, I’m sure Mrs McCarthy would love meeting you…”

 

Sam did not really know where the offer came from, but he knew that something had to be done about his relationship with Dean. Bobby was right, he was all Sam had left. The only family he could speak of. And as much as it pained him to admit it, he loved Dean from the bottom of his heart. His brother was everything to him. Sam often dreamed that things got back to what they used to be between him and his brother. Maybe he should try to make more of an effort, too.

 

“Dude, you don’t have to do this…”

 

“Her pies are to kill for…”, Sam told his brother with a smile, knowing Dean would never be able to resist pie. There was another brief silence on the other end in which Dean was clearly considering paying Sam a visit. It would do them some good to be just the two of them. Plus, Sam was convinced his brother and Gabriel would get on like a house on fire.

 

“Fine, I’ll come in March. And I can get a motel if she doesn’t want strangers in her flat”

 

“I’m sure she would insist on having you crash here. I’ll ask her and let you know, how does that sound?”

 

“Sure. Sounds like a plan”

 

Sam felt a familiar warmth spread in his stomach. Excitement. Hope. Anticipation. Maybe a bit of nervousness, too. This felt like a first step towards improvement, and the younger Winchester was convinced that they were doing the right thing for them. He would try to keep an open mind about Dean’s opinions, and perhaps Dean would be more acceptant of Sam’s decision if he saw how happy he was in Palo Alto.

 

“Ok. I better go now, still got some work to finish before tomorrow”, Sam said, knowing that not much more would come out of their conversation. Dean seemed to agree.

 

“Yeah, I figured you might. Take care, Sammy, and let me know what the scope is”

 

“Of course. See ya, jerk”

 

“Bye, bitch”

 

OoO

 

Sam did not know why he felt so anxious about his pizza and movie night with Gabriel. It was just a catch-up between two friends, for God’s sake. Besides when they had met for coffee on the Monday, things had not been awkward in the least. Sam had wondered if Gabriel would mention the scene outside the church, but apart from apologising for his behaviour, they did not speak more if it. Sam knew not to pry, and after the matter had been settled, the two men had returned to their usual topics of conversation: books, political actuality, the environment, their favourite animal, movies and TV shows, celebrity gossip… in short, they spoke about God and the world, and Sam could not remember the last time he had felt so at ease with a person. Gabriel was like a friend soulmate. The kind of friend you met in a lifetime and never let go of, no matter how hard things got. Gabriel was the kind of friend who would stand by you in adversity, and laugh with you when everything was good. Sam was glad he had crossed path with the kind janitor.

 

Mrs McCarthy had insisted Sam take her car, which the young man had tried to talk her out of. He hated taking advantage of the situation, she was already generous enough to feed him, wash his clothes and give him a bed to sleep in. All of that for free, too. The only thing she asked in return was his company, and when he was leaving her alone all evening, Sam did not feel like he was deserving of using her car to go see his friend. However, Mrs McCarthy was a stubborn woman, and she had not taken no for an answer. So, Sam had ended up driving her ancient Toyota Camris to Gabriel’s address. The young man was parked outside a small bungalow on Vaughn Avenue in Burbank, San Jose. The outside of the bungalow was painted in a light blue, and huge trees grew in the tiny front garden. Sam observed his surrounding briefly before stepping out of the car and heading to the front door. He rang the bell confidently, but instantly came to regret his actions when he heard shouts coming from the other side of the door. Sam thought he recognised Gabriel’s voice, but he could not be sure. He did not think the man had it in him to raise his voice. Sam was about to turn around and head back to the car when the door opened on the last person he expected to see.

 

“Hello, Sam”, young Castiel greeted him, his blue eyes looking down at his feet shyly when he recognised the man at the door. Sam did not know how to react, and for a second he lost all command of English.

 

“Uh, hi uh… Sorry, I must have made a mistake. I was meant to meet with Gabriel tonight?”, the taller man asked, uncertainty lacing his voice. Castiel merely looked over his shoulder, almost as if he expected his brother to show up behind him, but was only met with the faint shouts coming from another room.

 

“No, you’re right. I’m sorry about that, it’s all my fault…”

 

Those words were spoken calmly, but Sam could have sworn he noticed tears in the teenager’s eyes. Castiel quickly looked away once again, clearing his throat nervously as he thought of what to say next.

 

“Oh, no don’t worry. I’ll just go back home and tell your brother that I’m happy to reschedule”, Sam offered helpfully, not wanting the young boy to be upset. Before Castiel could reply, the shouting in the other room ceased and Gabriel soon appeared in the hall, his eyes wide when he saw Sam in the doorway. His mouth was shaped in a perfect ‘O’ as he realised his mistake. He smacked his forehead for effect before taking quick steps towards Sam.

 

“Samshine, I’m so sorry! It’s been a hellish day, I totally forgot about our plans”

 

“Don’t worry, I was just telling Castiel that I can come back later if that’s easier for you guys” Sam noticed the horror in Gabriel’s eyes, and the situation would have almost been comical if the taller man had not overheard his friend’s shouting.

 

“Don’t be silly, Samoose. Come in, we can still have pizza and Star Trek night. If you don’t mind Cas joining in, of course”, Gabriel quickly added, wrapping a protective arm around his younger brother’s shoulders. He only managed to do so because Cas was hunched over, otherwise the teenager would have probably stood taller than the janitor. Sam got the message loud and clear: if he had a problem with Cas staying, then he was not welcome in Gabriel’s home anymore.

 

“Oh uh… if you don’t mind me staying, I wouldn’t want to take away from your family time”, Sam explained, feeling slightly embarrassed. Gabriel properly beamed at him after Sam spoke those words, almost as if the taller man had passed some unspoken test.

 

“Of course I don’t mind you staying. Please, come in and make yourself comfortable. Cas, order some pizzas and tell them I’ll pay cash at the door. I really need a shower” With those words, Gabriel disappeared in what Sam deducted was the bathroom, leaving his brother and guest alone in the hall. Sam desperately tried to think of a conversation topic that would break the ice with his friend’s brother.

 

“So, uh… Cas… can I call you Cas?”, Sam asked quickly, realising he had used the teenager’s nickname without permission. God knew how he himself hated when anyone else barring Dean called him ‘Sammy’. Cas merely nodded his approval, clearly as uncomfortable with the situation as Sam was. Great start. “Uh, should we go through to the living room?”

 

“Yeah”

 

Sam followed Cas into a spacious living area. A red fabric couch stood near a fireplace, and its matching armchair stood to its left. A glass coffee table separated the seating from the TV stand, on which stood what looked like a relatively new screen. Few pictures hung on the walls, most of them depicting a small Jack Russell.

 

“Gabe owns a dog?”, Sam asked casually, hoping to make conversation. Cas nodded, whistling softly as he did so. Soon, the pitter-patter of claws was heard through the living room as a small dog with large brown eyes ran to Cas’ side. The dog’s tail wagged uncontrollably as he jumped up and down before Sam, clearly an invitation to be picked up. The taller man was quick to oblige as he began petting the excitable animal twisting around uncontrollably in his arms. Sam shushed the small dog soothingly.

 

“You’re such a good boy, aren’t ya? Didn’t even bark when I came in”, Sam praised the dog, who merely panted happily as its belly was being rubbed.

 

“His name’s Loki. He doesn’t really bark that much. Gabriel trained him to be very quiet, because his neighbour doesn’t like pets. It’s believed that he shot some wandering cats before, but nothing was ever proven”

 

Sam raised a surprised eyebrow at Cas’ words, but did not comment anything other than a shocked ‘oh, God’. The teenager shrugged before taking a few steps closer to the other man, where he absent-mindedly rubbed Loki’s head. Neither of them spoke as they devoted all their attention to the dog between them. Then out of the blue, Cas spoke again.

 

“I’m sorry I spoilt your evening. It’s just… I had nowhere else to go”, he explained vaguely, earning himself a reassuring look from Sam.

 

“Hey, it’s fine. The more, the merrier, right? We’re gonna have fun”

 

“Yeah. Let’s hope Gabriel convinced Michael to let me stay here at least until tomorrow. I don’t want to go back tonight”

 

Sam truly wanted to ask more questions, but he knew it was not his place to do so.  

 

“When Gabriel comes out of the shower, I’ll give you guys some privacy and you can ask him all the questions you want to know. And then, we’ll get pizza and binge-watch Star Trek. Sounds like a plan?”

 

Cas merely nodded, a small smile appearing on his lips. Not before long, Gabriel joined the two of them in the living room wearing nothing but grey sweat pants and a white t-shirt.

 

“So, you guys took care of the pizzas yet?” If Sam had not known better, he would have been fooled by Gabriel’s cheerful tone. His friend had definitely mastered the art of putting up a front.

 

“I’m on it”, Sam said, pulling his phone out of his pocket, “what’s the number?”

 

“There’s a flyer on the fridge in the kitchen”, Gabriel pointed to the door on their left while smiling warmly at Sam. As the taller man disappeared in the adjacent room, he faintly heard Cas ask Gabriel about the conversation he had with Michael on the phone. Sam hurriedly dialled the pizza place and ordered their dinner. This promised to be an interesting night.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

 

The night went surprisingly well, and the initial awkwardness Sam had felt when he first arrived vanished completely once Gabriel, Cas and he settled for the evening. The three empty boxes of pizza had been moved to the kitchen table, and Gabriel had quickly replaced them with three mugs of delicious hot chocolate topped with fluffy mini-marshmallows. Cas was spread across the armchair and had fallen asleep halfway through the evening. Poor kid looked exhausted, so Gabriel had not had the heart to wake him up, merely covering his thin body with a cosy blanket. Sam and he had then carried on watching the original series of Star Trek while munching on popcorn and chips. It was with great reluctance that Sam checked the time and decided that it was time to head back home.

 

“Already? It’s only half 10…”, Gabriel complained sleepily, clearly struggling to keep his eyes open.

 

“It’s another half an hour or so before I get back home”, Sam argued weakly, wishing he could stay longer. He did not want to worry Mrs McCarthy, so he knew that leaving was the reasonable thing to do. Although he would not have minded spending another couple of hours watching Star Trek with his friend.

 

“I suppose. I should get poor Cas into bed, he’ll kill his back sleeping on the armchair”

 

“Do you need help carrying him to the guest room?” Gabriel snorted at the statement.

 

“No guest room, kiddo. I’ll wake him up when you’re gone and get him to sleep in my bed. I’ll use the couch tonight” Sam felt a pinch to his heart as his friend spoke those words.

 

“Sleeping on the couch is bad for your back, too”

 

“It’s alright, it’s just for two nights at the most”, Gabriel said with a small smile, “Thanks for the concern, though. You’re very sweet to worry about my old back”

 

Gabriel accompanied Sam to his car in silence as the two men enjoyed their last minutes together. When they reached the kerb, Sam felt a nagging feeling in his stomach. He could not leave Gabriel like this. He could simply not drive home pretending that he had not heard his friend’s heated conversation on the phone. Sam needed to know if there was anything he could do to help. After all, that’s what friends did, right? Looked after each other. The taller man turned to his friend with a determined look on his face.

 

“Gabe, listen… I wasn’t gonna address the massive elephant in the room when Cas was there, but…”

 

“I’m gonna stop you right there, Samshine”, Gabriel interrupted him and raised a finger for emphasis, “This has nothing to do with you, and I’m not gonna let my problems get in the way of our friendship”

 

“But that’s what friends are for! Gabriel, I know we haven’t known each other that long, but I consider you a good friend already. I feel comfortable around you, and I want you to know that you can tell me stuff, okay? Because that’s part of the friendship package. If you’re at 20%, I’ll make sure I’m at 80% so I can pick you up from the ground, no matter what. Cause I know you’re the kind of guy who would do the same for me if I was feeling down”

 

Sam’s words seemed to touch Gabriel more than the other cared to let on. His friend stared at him for some time, almost as if making sure that Sam was telling the truth. The shorter man let out a small sigh and shook his head in defeat.

 

“Coffee on Monday? It’s kind of a long story, and I think if I’m gonna be open about my situation with you, you’ll need a bit of context”, Gabriel explained, remaining very vague. Sam took this as a step in the right direction. “However same goes for you, Samoose”

 

“What?” Sam frowned in confusion at his friend’s comment, which was met with a knowing look.

 

“I’m not stupid, you know? I can tell that you’re dealing with stuff, too. So, if I’m gonna be open, you have to reciprocate. Deal?” Sam suddenly felt very nervous. He had never opened up to anyone about his past and his family issues, and yet Gabriel could somehow tell that Sam held certain truths close to his heart. Gabriel had seen beyond the front straight into Sam’s soul, and it scared him. Then again, if he was to tell anyone about everything, it would be the handsome janitor.

 

“Fine. We have a deal”

 

Gabriel looked slightly surprised, but mostly proud of his little achievement.

 

“Awesome. Have a nice weekend, Samshine, and see you on Monday” A cheeky wink followed the goodbye, which made Sam snort slightly. Gabriel would never change; even in the bad times, he would always find time for mischief. The thought was oddly comforting.

 

“Yeah, see ya, Gabe”

 

OoO

 

Rather than meeting his friend downtown like usual, Gabriel had planned on picking Sam up from Stanford after his lecture. The janitor had not given a more detailed explanation for this sudden change of routine, but Sam figured that Gabriel had a good reason for doing this. The younger man was not paying attention to his lecture on the denial of justice in international law. He had stopped taking notes ages ago, and was fighting the drowsiness threatening to overtake his senses. Man, some of those topics were dull. Especially when Sam’s main area of interest was family law… he really could not care less about the international aspect, unless it concerned expat families. He kept reminding himself that it was only for one term; after his exam, he would not have to worry about it any longer.

 

“Denial of justice lies at the heart of the development of international law on the treatment of aliens and of foreign investment”, the professor spoke into the microphone, but as much as Sam tried to make sense of his words, they appeared merely as a confused jumble in his mind. The young man felt his phone buzz in his pants. He did not usually check his messages in class out of respect for the professors, but being bored out of his mind made him consider the option. A glance at the wall clock above the blackboard told Sam that he only had to endure this for another fifteen minutes. After that, he would be free and able to enjoy his day with Gabriel. Just fifteen more minutes…

 

Who would have thought that fifteen minutes could feel like fifteen hours? To Sam’s frustration, the professor decided to overrun his lecture after the end of the two hours. What was the need? If people did not know where to find the essay topics a week before the deadline, then there was not much hope left for them anyway, was there? Sam rolled his eyes behind closed lids.

 

“Don’t forget to hand in your work by next Tuesday 28th February before 9 a.m. Have a nice week”, the spectacled lecturer finally concluded, which was met by relieved sighs and excited mumbles of students eager to get on with their day, and probably for most, get started on their work. In the meantime, Sam’s stomach did a flip as he read the message Gabriel had sent him twenty minutes earlier.

 

Meet met at Tresidder Parking Lot. Look for a red pick-up Chevy

 

Sam made a mental note and headed to the given location, which was only a five-minute walk away from the law school building. Sam enjoyed the fresh air after being cooped up in the stuffy lecture theatre for two hours. Despite the 54° Fahrenheit forecast for that Monday, the wind coming from the south-west was cold enough to force the young man to zip up his jacket and stuff his hands in his pockets. Sam hoped Gabriel had planned to take them somewhere warm. Once the young man had reached the meeting point, his eyes rapidly scanned the area for a red pick-up. A small smile formed on Sam’s lips when he spotted the vehicle. He quickly reached Gabriel’s car and knocked on the window to get the other man’s attention. The young man noticed movement on the passenger seat. Loki’s tail was wagging furiously when he recognized Sam.

 

“Hey, Samsquatch”, the shorter man greeted Sam in his usual cheerful tone.

 

“Hi Gabe. And hi there Loki, how are you? Oh, aren’t you the goodest of boys”, Sam cooed softly as the dog threw himself onto his back in a silent invitation for Sam to rub his belly. The younger man eagerly complied, all the while complimenting Loki on how handsome he looked. Sam heard Gabriel snort next to him.

 

“If I’d know the dog would get all this attention, I would have left him at home”, his friend joked. Sam only managed an embarrassed smile as he met Gabriel’s eyes.

 

“Sorry. How have you been?”

 

“What, no ‘you’re so handsome, Gabriel’. Or, ‘you’re such a good boy, Gabriel’”

 

 “I'm very sorry you had to find out like this, but ever since I met Loki my priorities regarding our friendship have changed”, Sam joked.

 

“To be honest, I don't blame you. Loki is the cutest thing about me”

 

Sam reflected on that comment more than he should have as Gabriel drove towards San Jose. The younger man had not asked where they were heading, or what his friend had planned. Instead, he thought hard about Gabriel’s words. Sam felt a strong urge to correct the janitor, and to tell him that he had displayed so many good qualities since they had met. To say that Loki was the only cute thing about him felt unnecessarily harsh. Gabriel was so much more than that. He was kind, generous, honest, funny, compassionate, sensitive, intelligent, educated… Gabriel was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark world. Sam wanted to tell his friend how admirable it was that he had kept his cool around his brothers, even though they were clearly in conflict.

 

However, Sam felt like he had missed his window to say all these things to the janitor. They spent the drive in a comfortable silence broken only by the sound of the radio playing the charts. Sam caught Gabriel humming along to some of the songs. He looked so content, so happy…

 

“You're not wondering where we’re going?”, Gabriel asked as they drove into San Jose. Sam merely shook his head.

 

“Why, should I be worried that you're going to kill me and dump my body parts into the ocean? Friendly tip, if you sail out far enough into international waters, it'll be hard to prosecute you for my murder”

 

Gabriel laughed out loud at these words, a sound that made Sam's heart swell with affection for his friend.

 

“I'll keep that in mind. But no, I'm not planning to kill you… Yet”, the other man added with a wink. “Sam, I thought hard about what you said on Friday. And you're right, maybe if this friendship is meant to last, I should be honest about stuff with you. Especially if it might get into the way of our plans sometimes”

 

“I'm here for you, Gabe”, Sam said in a serious tone, “but you don't have to share more than you're comfortable with just now… “

 

“Yeah, I know… What I'm about to tell you I haven't told anyone before. Just FYI”

 

Sam’s stomach suddenly tightened into an uncomfortable knot at Gabriel's words.

 

“Okay… “, was all the younger man managed to utter, his voice close to a whisper. Gabriel sighed heavily as he absent-mindedly pet Loki’s head. The remaining of the drive was once again spent silently until Gabriel pulled into a side road. A sign indicated their location in plain black writing.

 

Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

 

An unexpected feeling of nausea rose in Sam's throat.

 

“Now remember I said I wouldn't kill you quite yet… “, Gabriel said, trying to diffuse the tension with a half-hearted joke. Sam managed a tense smile, but his heart filled with sadness. He hated cemeteries. The only time he had ever been was back when his dad was still around. They had gone to see his dead mother's grave, an experience which had traumatised young Sam for a lifetime. Obviously, Gabriel did not know about this specific episode, so the younger man could not blame him.

 

“Samshine? You alright?”

 

“Yeah. Sorry this is very… Unexpected”, Sam admitted. Gabriel merely nodded.

 

“I know. Everything will become clear soon”

 

Gabriel grabbed Loki’s lead and hooked the hatch to the ring on the small dog's collar. With a final rub between the ears, the janitor picked Loki up and stepped out of the car. Sam followed suit, trying to hold back the tears threatening to well up in his eyes.

 

“Heel, Loki!”

 

Even Gabriel's command sounded soft and patient. Loki obediently stuck to Gabriel's side, sniffing the ground directly before his feet. Sam caught up with his friend until he was walking at the same pace next to him. The taller man noticed Gabriel take a composing breath.

 

“My family never used to be so angry, you know? When we were kids, Michael and I, we were inseparable. My dad was a journalist, and my mother worked in government administration. We never truly had to worry about money. My parents’ marriage was not the most solid one, but being very religious, they didn't believe in divorce. They loved us very much, and we never lacked anything”

 

“Michael and I are four years apart. Luce came seven years after me, which was hard on my spoilt ass. I resented baby bro for months, because I went from being the baby to being the middle child, and feeling as though mummy and daddy stopped loving me. It didn't last long though, I soon came to like the little bugger. Another seven years passed, and Cas was born. He was a whole month and a half early, which meant that for the first weeks after his birth, little guy was battling for his life. Of course, mum and dad were too worried about him to care much about what the rest of us were up to…”

 

Gabriel turned left, his gaze unfocused as he recounted his childhood to Sam. The taller man merely listened, unwilling to interrupt. Gabriel paused briefly, either to gather his thoughts or allow his friend to digest the first influx of information.

 

“When Michael turned 18, he joined the army. Within a year, he was deployed to Iraq. Nerve-wracking experience for him, and also for the people he left behind. I remember mum and dad watching the news every day to see if their son's name would appear on the screen as part of the dead US soldiers who had lost their lives on the field. Cas was too young to remember any of it now. But Luce used to crawl in my bed at night, asking me if Michael would come home safe for Christmas. I was fifteen going onto my sixteen… and it’s not something you forget that easily…”

 

“Christmas came, and so did Michael. He returned to us changed, but we were glad to have him back nonetheless. No matter how much my mum tried to convince him to stay, Michael was stubborn. Three weeks later, he was back in Iraq. We only saw him every four to six months, but life went on for us. I finished high school, applied for colleges. I had big plans of becoming a chef and opening my own restaurant”

 

Gabriel became silent as the two men stopped before a white marble headstone. Sam furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, but understanding dawned on him when he read the golden inscription on the white stone.

 

Here lie Charlie ‘Chuck’ Shurley, and Naomi Shurley-Novak. Taken tragically from us on April 22nd,1996. Beloved parents to Michael, Gabriel, Lucien, and Castiel. Always in our hearts.

 

Gabriel stared at the headstone for a long time, undoubtedly reminiscing a time when both his parents were still alive. A quick calculation told Sam that Gabriel had only been 18 at the time. That kind of tragedy had the power to put any dream of college on hold. Sam did not need to hear the end of Gabriel's story to piece the puzzle together.

 

“Gabe… I'm… I don't know what to say. I'm sorry you had to go through this… “

 

“Yeah… everyone was sorry”, Gabriel mused bitterly. Sam did not comment, unsure how to carry on the conversation.

 

“After the car crash, Michael retired from the army to provide for Luce and Cas. I had to postpone college and help out in the house. Things started going pear-shaped from there. Luce was used to being daddy’s favourite and being spoilt by him. Michael had a more… military approach to their education. Lucien rebelled, and Cas grew up into this quiet obedient teenager who gets picked on in school for being top of the class, but who won’t defend himself because he has the self-confidence of a teaspoon”

 

Sam perceived the frustration in Gabriel’s voice instantly. The more his friend was revealing about his past, the more difficult it became to keep up the jolly front. Gabriel had given up his dream of becoming a renowned chef to help provide for his family, and for what? So he could witness helplessly as his brothers drifted further and further apart from each other? In that instant, it became apparent to Sam that Gabriel probably felt the same way Dean had when he took it upon himself to raise Sam after John left them. This responsibility towards their siblings should never have been theirs in the first place. Neither Dean nor Gabriel deserved to feel the burden of parenthood so early in their lives. And suddenly, Sam understood everything. His brother’s reaction to him leaving for Stanford, Dean’s reluctance to see the younger Winchester make a life away from his home, his family… a life away from Dean, who had sacrificed so much for him. How could Sam have been so blind?

 

“So here you have it, Samsquatch: my tragic sob story, and the reason why I’m so dickish when my brothers are around. It’s not an excuse, I know, and I promise that it won’t happen again…”

 

“My mum died in a house fire when I was a couple of months old…”, Sam suddenly blurted out, catching his friend’s attention instantly, “I don’t remember her at all. Dean does, and sometimes, I wish I did too. But after hearing your story, I’m somehow glad I don’t have any memories of her. Your experience sounds more painful…”

 

Gabriel eyed Sam carefully before offering a compassionate pat on the taller man’s shoulder.

 

“I never knew, Sam… if I did, I wouldn’t have taken you here…”, Gabriel explained, but Sam quickly shook his head.

 

“No, I’m glad you told me about your family. But I’ve promised to open up to you, too” Gabriel objected, but Sam ignored him. “After mum died, dad’s mental health took a turn for the worst. He started drinking until it became a problem, and long story short, he left Dean and me in Bobby’s care. Bobby had to work twice as hard to feed us, which meant that it was often just me and my brother. Even if he was gone sometimes for 12 hours at a time, Bobby was always more of a father than John Winchester ever was. And for that I’m grateful. But sometimes, I wonder if my father thinks about what he left behind”

 

“Have you never tried reaching out?”, Gabriel asked.

 

“No. I know Dean was thinking about it for a while, but I’m just… angry, you know? I don’t think he deserves to know how Dean and I are getting on. None of it was his doing…”

 

“I understand. It’s your decision, Sam, and no one can take that away from you. You’re smart enough to figure it out for yourself. And when you do, you’ll know what to do”, was all Gabriel said. The two men stood in silence for a while. Sam sent out a silent prayer to Gabriel’s parents thanking them for raising him into such a beautiful human being.

 

“Thanks for not running away, Sam…”, Gabriel whispered almost inaudibly, “not everyone would have stood in front of my parents’ grave listening to me feeling sorry for myself”

 

“You’re not getting rid of me that easily, Gabe. Thanks for sharing all of this. It means a lot”

 

Gabriel managed a grateful smile. In the spur of the moment, Sam wrapped his arm around his friend and affectionately squeezed the shorter man’s shoulder. Gabriel leaned into the embrace ever so slightly. The two men enjoyed the other’s presence briefly before breaking away from each other. As they walked back to Gabriel’s car, Sam decided that it would be a good idea to call Dean later and apologise to him.

 

OoO

 

“Sammy?” Dean sounded surprised, but Sam could not blame him. After all, the younger Winchester hardly ever called.

 

“Hey, Dean…”

 

There was an awkward silence where neither knew what to say next. Sam knew he had to get his shit together before Dean decided to hang up on him.

 

“Look, please don’t ask too many questions, alright? I’m just calling to say that… I’m sorry…”

 

“What?”

 

The older Winchester sounded a little irritated, probably thinking that Sam was pranking him. But the younger brother was being dead serious. Sam swallowed the lump in his throat before clarifying what he meant.

 

“Today I had… an eye-opening experience. And I realized that… I’ve been selfish. I never even tried to understand where you were coming from when you reacted the way you did when I left for Stanford. I just want you to know that I get it, ok? And I’m sorry for leaving you. I just want you to know that I did it because I wanted you to be proud of me”

 

Sam bit the inside of his cheek as he tried to hold back tears threatening to flow down his cheeks. He did not want Dean to hear him get all emotional. His brother had never been good with feelings.

 

“Sammy, I was always proud of you. You didn’t have to move to the other side of the country to prove anything. But, for what it’s worth… I’m sorry, too”

 

“For what?”

 

“For not giving you a chance to be who you want to be. For not appreciating how hard you must have worked to get a place at Stanford. I was scared that you would never come back, and that I would never see you again. But Sammy, I’m proud of you. No matter what you do, I will always be proud of my little brother. You’re doing something with your life, and I’m grateful to God for that”

 

Sam smiled at his brother’s words. This was all he had ever wanted to hear since moving to Palo Alto. Validation.

 

“I would never have been able to do it if it weren’t for you and Bobby. I owe you this, guys… I miss you”

 

Dean sniffled loudly at the other end, whether it was due to unspoken emotions or something else, Sam knew better than to ask. He was not far from sobbing himself, but he managed to hold it together.

 

“We miss you, too, bitch. But hey, soon I’ll be coming down to see you”

 

And Sam was happy to report that he genuinely looked forward to seeing his brother again.

 

“Yeah, I know jerk. I can’t wait”

 

Things started to look up for Sam. And damn, if that feeling was not the best feeling in the whole wide world.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven

 

 

“Dean, stop being such a drama queen about everything”, Sam told his brother, rolling his eyes as he turned his back on the older Winchester.

 

“Sammy, I was patient with you being a huge nerd, and I can deal with your depressing taste in music… but do not ask me to lead the hippie life with you”

 

“Hippie life? We’re going to the park… because the sun is shining and the fresh air will do us some good. And that way, Gabriel can take his dog out for a nice long walk” God knows the poor thing needs it, Sam thought to himself.

 

Dean arrived in Palo Alto two days earlier on March 24th, the official start of Sam’s Easter break. The younger Winchester had initially felt quite excited at the prospect of seeing his brother again after making amends with him several weeks earlier, but every time Dean opened his mouth, he managed to make Sam regret those feelings.

 

“Look, it’s nice that you and your new friend like doing the same dorky stuff, but come on… can’t we just all go out for a beer and get it over with? Why do I have to meet him anyway, it’s not like I ever met any of your other friends in Sioux Falls…”, Dean asked, his tone whiny like that of a child. Sam bit his tongue to refrain from making that exact comment.

 

“Gabriel is different. He’s the only friend I have here, and I care for him a lot. Also, I thought you might want to check that I’m not hanging around with criminals since you can’t micromanage my friendships from that far away”, Sam joked, skilfully dodging Dean’s fist as his brother failed to hit him in the shoulder.

 

“Shut up, bitch! At least someone’s looking out for you, kiddo”

 

“Don’t get your pretty lacy panties in a twist, jerk. And yeah, I still remember that…”

 

Dean had the decency to blush at Sam’s comment. The younger Winchester laughed heartily at his brother’s reaction, this time dodging his very own pillow. Sam had to admit that he had not felt that relaxed for a while with all the exam revision and essay deadlines of that past couple of weeks. This holiday with his brother would do him good. Plus, Mrs McCarthy had even agreed to let Sam skip church that day so he could spend some quality time with Dean. The only caveat was that the brothers be back for the traditional Sunday supper that they would share with the elderly lady, which neither of them truly minded. There was nothing that could keep the brothers away from Mrs McCarthy’s home-cooking.

 

“Fine, we’ll go to that stupid park, but can we at least stop for hot dogs?”

 

“Sure, if that’s what it takes to get you on board with this”, Sam relented. Dean grinned toothily as he grabbed his car keys.

 

“Hurry up then, I’m starving”

 

OoO

 

Sam felt gradually more and more anxious. He wanted Gabriel and Dean to get on well, and that implied for his older brother not to make an absolute ass of himself on their first meeting. The younger Winchester did not really know why he felt so strongly about this, or why this first impression Gabe would get of his brother was so important to him. Dean could often come across as over-protective, even over-bearing, and Sam did not want to put off Gabriel and risk losing the friendship they had. Things had been going so well since the janitor opened up about his past, and Sam had slowly started revealing more about himself, too. Although the younger Winchester could not bring himself to spill all the beans at once like Gabriel had done, his trust in the janitor had considerably grown over the past few weeks. Losing this friendship now would be devastating to Sam.

 

“Swear to God, if any of those ankle biters manage to dent or scratch baby…”, Dean muttered under his breath as he parked the Impala near the park entrance. Sam would have rolled his eyes at his brother’s words, but he was too busy scanning the area for any signs of Gabriel. As anticipated, the janitor was already standing at the gate with Loki sat patiently next to him. Sam could not help the fond smile that appeared on his lips.

 

“Come on, Gabe’s already here”, the younger Winchester said as he stepped out of the car. He vaguely heard Dean follow him as the taller brother rushed to Gabriel’s side. When the janitor noticed him, his face broke into a wide grin.

 

“Hey, Samshine”, Gabriel greeted him in his usual cheerful tone. After a quick hug, the smaller man directed his attention to Dean standing awkwardly behind his brother. To Sam’s relief, his friend did not make a move to hug the older Winchester. Instead, Gabriel extended his hand politely. “And you must be the infamous Dean Winchester. Glad to finally be able to put a face to the name”

 

“The pleasure is all yours”, Dean sassed Gabriel, which caused Sam to tense. Before the younger Winchester could snap at his brother for his misplaced sense of humor, Gabriel’s mocking voice replied point-blank:

 

“The 90s called, they want their joke back”

 

Dean looked momentarily stunned and unsure how to react following Gabriel’s reply. Sam wondered if his brother would be offended, or impressed by the janitor’s boldness. The younger Winchester did not have to wait long to find out. Dean soon recovered from his state of surprise.

 

“And here was me thinking the little-man-syndrome was a myth”

 

Sam wished he had the ability to sink in a hole deep underground, which was probably the only way he would get away from his embarrassment of a brother. The younger Winchester could not believe the cheek Dean had, and if Gabriel were to run away now, Sam truly could not blame him. To both the brothers’ surprise, the janitor merely grinned deviously.

 

“Short people can wear heels, ugly just can’t be fixed”

 

The comment was too much for Sam, who lost it as soon as Gabriel had spoken those words. The look on Dean’s face only intensified the younger Winchester’s wheezing noises. Gabriel looked incredibly proud of the effect he had on Sam, while Dean was painfully struggling to come up with a decent come back. It was the first time in a long while that the taller Winchester witnessed his brother rendered speechless.

 

“Damn, that one was good…”, Dean muttered under his breath. Sam was secretly relieved that his brother was taking Gabriel’s banter so light-heartedly. Although the remark had been hilarious, the younger Winchester would have hated for it to ruin their get-together. Gabriel did not look in the least worried about his actions if his mischievous grin was any indication at all.

 

“Let’s get going then, shall we? I’m dying for a hot dog”

 

“Now that’s something I can get behind. Sammy, your friend is a wise man”

 

Gabriel chuckled as he crouched next to Loki so he could unhook the lead from the Jack Russel’s collar. Loki took off as soon as he felt Gabriel free him from his restraints, sprinting into the park like his life depended on it. His master did not appear concerned about Loki’s whereabouts, probably confident that the little dog would return to him if whistled at. Sam could not help but admire the way the sun kissed Gabriel’s hair, making them appear lighter as golden blonde streaks were revealed in the sunlight.

 

Sam did not speak much as the three men walked around Heritage Park. Gabriel and Dean had a proper conversation going on, where both men shared their similar tastes for rock music, horror movies and junk food. The sound of happy families surrounded the three of them as they enjoyed the fresh air. Loki was never far behind, occasionally running past Gabriel to make sure his master was still there, or simply just so Dean or Sam could throw him a stick. Sam loved how domestic their outing felt, and the younger Winchester could not shake the dopey smile as he finally tuned into the two other men’s conversation.

 

“Seriously, Dean-o… Styx? Dennis DeYoung is such a punk…”, Gabriel replied with a well-placed eye-roll.

 

“Dennis DeYoung’s not a punk. He’s Mr Roboto, bitch”

 

Loki’s barking distracted the three men. Gabriel excused himself as he jogged in that direction, apologising profusely to the owner of a seemingly terrified Great Dane. While Sam observed the scene fondly, Dean leaned into his brother’s space and whispered something under his breath the younger Winchester did not quite catch.

 

“Sammy!”, Dean hissed when he noticed he did not have the other man’s attention. Sam instantly snapped out of his trance.

 

“Huh?”

 

“I said, you could have warned me about Gabriel being… you know…” A soft blush tinted Dean’s cheeks as he avoided eye-contact, which made Sam raise a questioning eyebrow.

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“Well, it’s obvious he’s… a friend of Dorothy…”

 

“A friend of Dorothy, really?”, Sam commented sardonically.

 

“That’s honestly all you took from what I just told you?”

 

“Dean, that’s offensive… besides, Gabe is not gay”

 

Sam frowned at Dean’s mocking snort, but his brother dropped the subject as the two men noticed Gabriel head back with Loki on toe. The small dog looked incredibly pleased with himself judging by the way he strutted proudly next to his owner, his tail wagging excitedly in the air. Sam vaguely heard Dean and Gabriel decide that they would get their hot-dog now before heading back into town, but the younger Winchester was too busy ruminating on Dean’s words. Could Gabriel be gay? And if he was, how did Dean know after barely an hour spent with the man? In just over two and a half months, Sam had not even asked Gabriel about past girlfriends or about his love life in general. Thinking about it, the two men had only recently got to talk about their personal lives. Was that weird? Should Sam have showed more interest in Gabriel’s private affairs? In the younger Winchester’s opinion, there was a reason why his friend had never shared details about his life without being prompted. It had felt rude pressuring Gabriel to reveal more about himself than he was comfortable with.

 

Sam almost wished Dean had not said anything. Even if Gabriel was gay, why did it matter so much? Why should it matter at all? Sam figured out some years ago that he was probably bisexual. It had in fact been Jessica, his high-school girlfriend, who suggested the possibility to him in the first place. Sam could not quite remember why the conversation had taken place, but he would never forget the fear he had felt in his gut. He had been scared of Jessica’s rejection, and that she would make fun of him. He could not have been more wrong, for Jess proved to be a very supportive girlfriend and a wonderful human being. Sam now wished he had kept in touch with her.

 

“Sammy? Earth to Sammy?” Dean waved his hand before Sam’s eyes for emphasis. The younger Winchester’s vision focused on his brother’s exasperated expression, and Sam noticed Gabriel’s worried frown out of the corner of his eye.

 

“Sorry, I was uh … thinking…”

 

“Yeah, well how about you think about what you’re wanting on your hot-dog?”

 

Sam could tell that Gabriel knew something was troubling the younger Winchester. Sam had noticed over the past couple of weeks how easily Gabriel seemed to pick up on people’s behaviours and attitudes. Sam wondered if openly telling his friend that he identified as bisexual would help Gabriel come out of his shell, too. Then again, the only person who knew about Sam’s secret was Jess.

 

“I’ll just have what you guys are having”, Sam told Dean absent-mindedly. While the older Winchester waited in line, Gabriel came to stand next to the other brother.

 

“You alright there, Samshine?”, he asked Sam.

 

“Yeah, of course…”

 

“You know I can tell when you’re brooding over something, right? C’mon, spill the beans”, Gabriel urged. Sam knew he would have to confront his friend sooner or later about Dean’s suspicions.

 

“It’s just… Dean said something that got me thinking, but… you don’t have to worry about that, he’s quick to make hasty judgements…”

 

“Judgements? Now I really want to know what he said…”

 

Sam took a composing breath before finally meeting Gabriel’s eyes sheepishly.

 

“He… he was just saying that he thought you might be gay. He’s not even known you for an hour and he’s already assuming…”

 

“Would things be different if I were?”, Gabriel interrupted Sam, his voice sounding slightly defensive.

 

“What? Of course not, Gabe…” Sam noticed how Gabriel’s features smoothened as relief washed over his face. “Why would things be different? You’re still my friend, no matter what”

 

“Then why is this such a big deal to you?”

 

“Because it took my brother about an hour to figure it out, and I’ve known you for two and a half months and never even noticed! I feel bad…”

 

Understanding dawned on Gabriel at his friend’s words, and against all expectations, his face broke into an amused, yet oddly affectionate smile. Sam was confused by the smaller man’s reaction, which he clearly did a terrible job at hiding.

 

“Don’t feel bad. The fact that you never even questioned my sexuality even though it seems crystal-clear to other people just shows that no matter who I decide to snog, you’d still choose to be my friend. And I appreciate that, Sam. You have no idea how many friends I’ve lost after coming out… “

 

“Well, you definitely don’t have to worry about losing me”, Sam assured the janitor, “because… well, because you’re the best friend I’ve had in a while. If snogging dudes makes you happy, then who am I to tell you it’s wrong?”

 

“I wish everyone took a page out of your book, Samshine”

 

Before Sam could reply, Dean appeared before them and handed the two men their hot-dogs. Loki’s snout frantically twitched as he took in the scent of meat. Gabriel bit off the end of the sausage sticking out of the bun and handed it to Loki, whose eyes grew wide with anticipation at the prospect of eating proper meat. Dean mimicked Gabriel’s action, to Sam’s amusement. As much as his brother claimed to hate pets, he surely had taken a liking in the excitable Jack Russel.

 

“So Gabe, what’s your views on AC/DC?”

 

OoO

 

“Dean?”

 

“Hm?”

 

“If I tell you something, do you promise not to freak out?”

 

Dean shifted on the sofa-bed, but Sam could not make out what was going on in the darkness of his room. He had expected his brother to be asleep already, but seemingly Dean had as much trouble getting to sleep as Sam did. Probably for different reasons, but that was a conversation for another night.

 

“That depends…”

 

“Never mind. Night…”

 

“Alright bitch, what is it?”, the older Winchester relented in an irritated tone. Sam’s stomach was in his throat as he braced himself for what was to come. He tried to swallow the lump in his throat, but to no avail. It was now or never.

 

“I’m bi…”

 

A minute passed. Then two… Dean remained silent, causing Sam’s heart rate to increase exponentially. Only when his brother shifted more earnestly in his bed did the younger Winchester decide to sit upright. He noticed that Dean had mirrored his position.

 

“Ok…”

 

“Ok?”

 

“I mean, Bobby kinda suspected you might be, but… I don’t know man, I never gave it any thought”, Dean admitted.

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because it never really mattered. Sammy, you’re still my brother. Regardless of what choices you make. If that’s how you feel, then fine. Just be careful, that’s all I’m asking. And never keep any boyfriends or girlfriends from me, alright? I want to make sure you’re safe in any circumstances”

 

Sam felt tears of joy well up in his eyes, and his heart swelled with love for his older brother. Dean might sometimes act like a judgemental bastard, but he was a good man. He would do anything for the people he loved. Sam thought that any woman would be lucky to have him.

 

“Thanks…”

 

“So… is that it?”, Dean asked, taking Sam by surprise.

 

“Is one big revelation not enough for one night?”

 

“It’s just… I expected you to tell me something entirely different, that’s all”, the older Winchester confessed.

 

“What did you think I was gonna say?”

 

“That you and that Gabriel dude are getting at it like horny teenagers…”

 

“What? Dean, Gabe and I are just friends, alright? Just because you were right about him being gay doesn’t mean he and I are a thing, okay?” Sam knew he sounded defensive, but he was too shocked to care in that instant. He could make out Dean raising his hand in defeat even in the darkness of the room.

 

“Fine … I wouldn’t judge you guys. I mean, if you were gonna get together with a dude, then Gabriel’s a great choice, just sayin’”

 

“Yeah, whatever. Goodnight, jerk”, Sam concluded the conversation, huffing in annoyance as he dropped back onto his mattress and pulled the covers over his body. He heard Dean do the same. That night, Sam dreamed of Gabriel and him walking hand in hand in the park. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

 

“Dean, I’m just saying… just because I told you I’m bi doesn’t mean I fancy every single person in Palo Alto”, Sam explained as calmly as possible, however his brother had already stopped paying attention to what was being said. “Dude, are you even listening?”

 

“Not really”, Dean admitted point-blank, causing the younger Winchester to roll his eyes. The two brothers had decided to start off their day-trip to San Francisco with a quick breakfast from the diner near the university. It had seemed like a great idea to Sam until Dean decided to comment on every waiter’s appearance, regardless of gender, almost as if he were shopping for his younger brother. Sam did not know whether he should feel amused or embarrassed.

 

“Hey look… Wednesday specials pig in a poke”

 

The delighted grin on Dean’s face was refreshing. It truly did not take much to keep his brother happy. A young waitress Sam could swear he had seen on campus several times already came over and took their order. She did not fail to flash Dean a flirty smile, which was easily reciprocated.

 

“Well, there’s one thing Sammy, Cali girls are certainly worth the nearly 30-hour drive”

 

“If you say so, man. Try not to sleep with anyone I know, that would be great”, Sam sassed his brother, but Dean merely snorted derisively.

 

“Don’t worry, pal, Gabriel’s not my type”

 

“I know people other than Gabe”, Sam said defensively, earning himself a dubious look from Dean.

 

“Name me three other people you frequently hang out with other than your four-foot-three janitor…”, his brother challenged him. Sam opened his mouth as if to say something, but found himself unable to think of a single name. The younger Winchester wished he could wipe the satisfied smirk off the older Winchester’s face.

 

“See… so don’t worry, Sammy”

 

“Shut up, jerk!”

 

Once the two brothers had finished their breakfast, Sam paid the bill before following his brother out. The younger Winchester had to admit that he was really excited about their daytrip. He had even messaged Gabriel the evening before, telling his friend all about their plans to go see Alcatraz and ride the streetcars. The janitor had shared Sam’s enthusiasm, even suggesting nice cafés and diners the two brothers could try out.

 

“Hey Sammy, did you see where I put my – umph! Son of a bitch!”, Dean cursed loudly as he bumped into a slightly shorter man, whose white t-shirt now sported light-brown coffee stains. Sam turned around at the sound of his brother’s annoyed cussing. His heart dropped in his chest when he recognised the stranger standing next to his brother.

 

“Shit. Sorry man, I didn’t see you there”, Dean apologised as he assessed the damage he had caused.

 

“Maybe if you spent more time focusing on what’s ahead of you!”, the other man Sam recognised as Gabriel’s brother Michael snapped at Dean. The older Winchester had the decency to look sheepish, however Sam could tell that his brother did not appreciate the tone. Thinking quickly of a solution, Sam opened his wallet and fished out a twenty-dollar bill which he promptly handed to a still fuming Michael.

 

“Look, man, it was an accident. Here, that should cover for the costs of a dry-cleaners”

 

“I know you…”, Michael said, ignoring the money Sam was offering him, “you’re that boy from church”

 

“Church?”, Dean asked, disbelief lacing his tone, “sorry dude, you have the wrong guy. Sammy doesn’t go to church”

 

“Dean, actually…”

 

“You’re friends with my brother Gabriel, correct?”, Michael interrupted, his eyes piercing and his tone dry. Sam nodded and managed a polite smile as he extended his hand to the slightly shorter man.

 

“Name’s Sam. I don’t think we have been properly introduced yet” Michael’s gaze hardened as he eyed the taller man suspiciously. Dean instinctively stepped forward, protectively planting himself in front of his younger brother.

 

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll steer clear from Gabriel from now on. And I also don’t want you near Castiel ever again, understood?” Michael’s voice was menacing, and Sam felt a strong urge to step back from this man. Dean, however, did not appreciate anyone threatening his family.

 

“Or what, huh? You’ll pray to the angelic hosts to come and smite him?”

 

“Dean, stop it. Let’s just go”, Sam tried to reason with his brother, but the look on Dean’s face indicated that he had no intention to back down.

 

“God will take care of Gabriel and your brother’s issue eventually. In the meantime, I don’t want their ways ruining my younger brother’s future. I won’t allow Castiel’s mind to be tainted by… the likes of you”, Michael said as he shot Sam a pointed look. The younger Winchester had no idea what the other man was referring to, even though something in his gut told him it had something to do with Gabriel’s sexuality.

 

“Gabriel is a good man”, Sam defended his friend, his teeth clenched angrily, “and I won’t let you talk about him like that. He’s my friend”

 

“That kind of ‘friendship’ is wrong, boy!” The way the other man stressed the word friendship sent chills down Sam’s spine. He did not know what he had done wrong, but Michael clearly did not appreciate his presence in the slightest.

 

“I think we’re done here”, Sam announced sharply, turning his back on the two men and heading towards the Impala. By the sounds of it, Dean was quick to follow, whether it was to make sure Sam was okay or because he finally decided that a face-off with Michael would be a bad idea, the younger Winchester did not know. He did not really care. All he wanted was to get away from Gabriel’s brother.  

 

“What the fuck was that all about?”, Dean asked when the two had settled in the car, “you go to church?”

 

That’s what you took from that?”, Sam asked incredulously.

 

“I just…”

 

“Why would my friendship with Gabriel be wrong? And why should it affect Castiel in the slightest? We had fun when I spent the evening with Gabe, we had pizza and watched Star Trek… Cas looked like he was enjoying himself. He clearly preferred spending time with me and Gabriel rather than listen to his two brothers screaming at each other all evening! That’s the reason he went to Gabe’s in the first place!”, Sam rambled angrily, knowing full well that he was probably not making any sense to Dean.

 

“Slow down, you… did you say you watched Star Trek?”

 

Getting away from the point again, Dean”, Sam cried out. Dean merely shook his head and slightly pivoted his body so he was facing his younger brother.

 

“Look… I don’t know what the deal is with this Castiel, and I don’t really care. It’s clear why this dude thinks your friendship with Gabriel is wrong, though! And I’m surprised you haven’t figured it out yet, Mr I’m-so-smart-I-got-into-Stanford-law-school… Michael just confirmed my theory that Gabriel plays for the other team. And clearly, he doesn’t approve. When you were introduced as a ‘friend’, his first instinct was that you and Gabriel were together as more than just freakin’ ‘friends’…

 

It took Sam several seconds to register and process what Dean had just told him. Even then, it did not make sense at all to the younger Winchester. Why would anyone think of Gabriel and him as more than friends? They had never done anything that could suggest the two of them were a couple, so why would Michael assume that they were dating after only seeing them interact once?

 

“I… but why would he think that?”, came the insecure question. Dean’s expression changed from one of mild frustration to one of exasperation. The older brother leaned his elbows against the steering wheel of the Impala and rested his forehead in his hands, exhaling loudly as Sam stared at him with his best bitch face. “What now?”

 

“It’s impossible to be that oblivious… Sammy, I thought you were gonna announce that you and Gabriel were dating, remember? If that was my gut feeling, what do you think psycho douchebag out there thought?”

 

Sam did not know what to think at that point. He enjoyed Gabriel’s company, and fair enough he wished he could spend every second of each day with him, but was that not how everyone felt when they made new friends? Sam found himself wondering about his feelings for the janitor, and whether they were of a romantic nature or not. What if they were, and Sam had been too blind to realize? He tried to remember how it had felt like falling in love with Jess. The first word that came to mind was easy. The second word was natural. And the third was scary.

 

“Do you… do you think I should tell Gabriel what happened?”, Sam asked his brother, feeling genuinely lost and at loss for what to do. Dean considered the question briefly before squeezing Sam’s shoulder reassuringly.

 

“He’s your friend, man. You do what you think is best, but I think it would be good to mention how much of a dick his brother was to us today”

 

“Yeah. Yeah, maybe he should know”

 

Sam had no idea how he was going to tell Gabriel about that morning’s events, but he knew it would not be a fun conversation.

 

OoO

 

He did what?” Sam heard Gabriel let out an annoyed sigh at the other end of the line. It was close to midnight, and the younger Winchester did feel bad for calling his friend that late, but Dean and Michael’s words had kept him awake. Ten minutes prior, Sam texted Gabe to ask if the janitor was still awake. As soon as he got a positive reply, he had snuck into the kitchen so he would not risk waking up Dean or Mrs McCarthy.

 

“I just… I thought you needed to hear it from me rather than from anyone else. I’m really sorry Gabe…”

 

Don’t you dare apologise for my brother being an asshole, Sam Winchester”, Gabriel admonished over the phone, causing Sam to smile sadly to himself. “What Michael did was not okay, and I will not let him get away with that…”

 

“Gabriel, don’t do anything rash. I mean, is it really worth it? I’m not gonna see the guy anytime soon, I think it’s best if we let it slide for now…”

 

“It’s really sweet that you want to be diplomatic about this, but my brother has been dying to control my life ever since I left. He needs to know that I won’t stand for it anymore”

 

“I agree Gabe, but fighting with him is not the solution. Think of what more tension will do to your brothers. Michael doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’ll ever admit he’s wrong, so maybe the best thing to do is just to carry on with your life the way you want to. I can’t think of a better way to get back at him…” Sam felt that he was getting through to Gabriel judging by the prolonged silence in which his friend was most certainly considering the younger Winchester’s words.

 

“I can think of plenty of better ways to get back at him… but I suppose I should listen to my voice of reason. Thanks, Jiminy Cricket!” Sam let out a hushed laugh at the nickname.

 

“You’re welcome. And, uh, while I’m at it. I have something that I want to tell you. I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while now, but I didn’t know how and… well, it’s kinda my big secret, but I figured since I know yours… so here it goes uh… I’m bi. There it is, cat’s out”

 

Sam let out a nervous laugh, although he actually felt like throwing up. He was 100% sure that Gabriel would accept him no matter what, but this nauseous feeling was not about rejection. Sam felt exposed. It was the kind of feeling that spread through your stomach like a disease when you were about to tell someone a secret you had been holding close to your heart for years. Sam felt as vulnerable as a deer in the headlights, paralyzed with fear and unable to move even to save his life.

 

“Best of both worlds I guess, huh?”, Gabriel joked, but Sam’s forced giggle made it blatantly clear that this was not the answer the younger Winchester had expected from his friend. “Sorry that was… inappropriate. Samsquatch, I know what it feels like to come out, and I know the gut that takes, so… thanks. It means a lot that you told me”

 

“I… I wasn’t worried about your reaction”, Sam admitted, “in fact, since you told me you’re gay, I knew you’d be okay with it. I don’t know why I was so nervous about it all”

 

“Well, probably because you’re revealing a part of yourself that you’ve felt like you had to hide from the world until now. As strange as it sounds, keeping a secret is comforting, because you can pretend that it’s all just in your head. Once it’s out, there’s no denying it anymore. I get it, Sam. I could have done anything with that information once you gave it to me, so of course you’ll feel nervous about telling me”

 

Sam’s heart swelled with affection for his very understanding friend. Gabriel was probably the most empathic person Sam had ever encountered, and it was refreshing to have someone try and walk in his shoes for a mile rather than judge him based on assumptions. The younger Winchester relaxed against the kitchen counter and allowed a content smile to grace his lips.

 

“Thanks for understanding, Gabe. You’re the best”

 

“I know, kiddo” Sam did not have to see his friend’s face to know that Gabriel was wiggling his eyebrows playfully.

 

“I’m glad that you’re my friend”

 

“Ditto, Samshine. Right, I’ll let you get back to your bed. Hope you enjoyed San Fran”

 

“I really did. We should go together some time”, Sam suggested.

 

“Yeah, we should. Goodnight Sam. See you again next Monday?”

 

Sam tried to ignore the way his heart somersaulted in his chest at Gabriel’s question, but the sensation was too intense.

 

“Of course. See you then”

 

Neither of them truly wanted to hang up in that moment. Sam stared at his phone, waiting for Gabriel to hang up. For the briefest of moments, the younger Winchester wondered if friends normally acted this way. He dismissed the thought and ended the call before heading back to bed.

 

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE

 

 

“You can’t force me to go”

 

“Like hell I can’t, Samsquatch. Don’t think because I’m short that I won’t turn up and drag you to that gig by the scruff of your neck!”

 

“Gabe, I’ve got nine exams to study for. I’ve literally got no time, and if it had been any other day…”

 

“Please?”

 

Sam sighed loudly at Gabriel’s pleading tone. The exasperation he felt towards his friend quickly disappeared when Sam heard whimpering noises followed by a gentle praise spoken by Gabriel.

 

“Good boy, Loki, tell Sammich how sad we are that he’s not wanting to spend time with us…”

 

“Really?”

 

This time around, Loki made a sound halfway between a wail and a bark. Sam jerked the phone away from his ear as the noise nearly pierced his eardrums. He could faintly hear the dog getting wound-up on the other end as Gabriel softly cooed at him. Sam could not help the small smile that tugged at the corner of his lips.

 

“Now look what you’ve done, you’ve made Loki sad, you monster!”

 

“I have a feeling I made Loki’s master even sadder…”

 

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you’re just a pretty face, sugar. So, about tonight. It’s at 7pm in a neat little bar in San José. I’ll pick you up from Palo Alto at about 6, so you still have plenty of time to revise some more until then”

 

“How am I getting home?”

 

“I won’t be drinking, so I can drive you back”

 

Sam rubbed his temples as he considered his friend’s proposal. He could probably use a break from his books and flashcards. Mrs McCarthy would love to see him leave the flat, too. She had been nagging him about taking a break for the past week now. She probably would not put up much of a fight. Sam let out a resigned sigh.

 

“Fine”

 

“Really?” Gabriel sounded surprised that he had managed to convince the number one nerd to leave his cave for a couple of hours.

 

“Yes… it sounds fun. I’ll see you at 6 then?” The triumphant ‘whoop’ that could be heard on the other line filled Sam’s heart with fondness. Gabriel genuinely wanted him there, and the thought felt comforting. It had been a while since Sam had not felt like he was intruding. He felt welcomed, wanted even…

 

“Hell yeah, Samshine. What’s your address?”

 

OoO

 

The Caravan Lounge was a well-known spot in an unassuming building in the heart of San José. Sam found the atmosphere rather pleasant, the staff friendly and the drinks affordable. Gabriel knew the place well. He recognised several of the locals and never failed to introduce Sam to them, making sure to involve the other man in the conversations as much as he could. Sam was grateful that his friend was making such a conscious effort to include him, and before he knew it, people were buying Sam drinks. He was down to his third or fourth bottle of beer, but was not yet affected by the alcohol. Gabriel stayed faithful to his promise and only ordered sodas.

 

“So, who are we here to see?”, Sam finally asked after they finally managed to sit at a table just the two of them.

 

“It’s my brother Luce’s band, Wayward Devils”, Gabriel explained casually, “they usually play pretty heavy stuff, but occasionally they’ll come to bars like this one and cover some of the rock oldies”

 

“Wow, I didn’t know Lucien was part of a band” Or that he was old enough to be allowed into a bar, Sam commented to himself, only then noticing how close they were to the tiny stage on which instruments had already been set up.

 

“He is. He’s talented, too. He always enjoyed singing since mum and dad made him join the church choir. He’s the only one of us four who stuck to it, not necessarily because he liked the singing, but because he loved how people reacted to it. I remember everyone in the church would stop and gape at him when he sang his solos. The other kids in his group were always so jealous, and I think dad was secretly proud that his son was the best out of the lot…”

 

Sam could sense Gabriel losing himself in childhood memories, but the younger man did not know whether he should stop his friend before he delved in too deep, or encourage him to open up more about his past. Sam loved hearing Gabriel’s stories. It sounded as though his friend’s family used to be so happy. It was a shame that after their parents’ death, the brothers had drifted apart. Sam remembered the bitterness in Michael’s tone when he and Dean had bumped into him several weeks ago. The thought that Gabriel probably felt that bitterness and disapproval from his brother every time he saw him filled Sam with sadness.

 

“Are you into music, too?”, Sam asked.

 

“I suppose I’m decent enough on the guitar, but nothing like those guys are capable of. And my singing voice, well… let’s just say I won’t be singing Ave Maria anytime soon unless I want to break windows and glasses. Or send old ladies running out of the church like the devil’s chasing them…”

 

The barwoman came to their table and placed a tumbler of whiskey in front of Sam. He and Gabriel shared confused looks before telling the young woman that they had not ordered anymore drinks. Her flirty wink made Sam blush a light shade of pink.

 

“That one’s on the house, babe. It’s the best one we have”

 

Sam felt like a deer in the headlights. Not knowing how to react, he looked over at Gabriel for support, but found his friend glaring at the oblivious barwoman. The action seemed strange, but Sam did not have time to dwell on it just then, too busy trying to get rid of the interested woman staring at him expectantly.

 

“I uh… thanks…” Sam shifted awkwardly in his seat as the girl flashed him a wolfish grin.

 

“I clock out in two hours… if you’re still here, maybe we could grab a drink together?”

 

Sam again sought the help of his friend, but Gabriel was seemingly too busy staring absent-mindedly around the room to notice. Meanwhile, the young woman was starting to feel impatient as she waited for the object of her desire to answer. In that instant, Sam wished he was anywhere else but in this bar, desperately wrecking his brain for a nice way of telling this person how much he really did not want to ‘grab a drink’ with her.

 

“Sorry, but… I’m here with my boyfriend”, Sam told the girl in a moment of sheer panic. Gabriel’s eyes shot up in surprise, his eyebrows almost reaching his hairline. The young woman stared at the janitor for a solid minute, earning herself a coy grin from the blonde. Sam nearly burst out laughing when he noticed his friend wiggle his eyebrows suggestively.

 

“I… I didn’t realise, I’m… chrm” Without another word, the woman returned behind her bar after sending a deadly glare Gabriel’s way. Sam had the decency to look apologetic as the blonde’s eyes rested back on him.

 

“I panicked…”

 

“Clearly…” Gabriel went silent for a moment, and just as he was about to say something, people started cheering around them as a group of young men, one of them Sam recognised as Gabriel’s brother Lucien, made their way onto the stage. Sam wondered briefly if he should urge Gabriel to say what was on his mind, but decided against it when he realised that the noise around them would make any conversation difficult anyway. God, this was embarrassing. Why did he say that he was here with his boyfriend? Now this girl would think that he and Gabriel were a thing. What would the janitor think of him now? Without giving it much thought, Sam finished the whiskey the barwoman had brought him while distractedly listening to the Wayward Devils’ cover of ‘Highway to Hell’.

 

“You might want to slow down, Samshine”, Gabriel said loudly, but Sam merely shot his friend a reassuring smile.

 

“I’ll be alright, don’t worry”

 

Gabriel did not look convinced, but he dropped the subject anyway. Sam got up and went to the bar, ordering another whiskey and a pint of soda. At least, the evening could not get any worse.

 

OoO

 

Sam had been wrong; turns out the evening got a lot worse. Wayward Devils played for a good hour and a half, during which Sam regularly refreshed his and Gabriel’s drinks. The move from beer to whiskey had not been a wise choice, but Sam was too proud to admit that he was tipsy. He did not want his friend to think that he was a light-weight. Sam Winchester was no light-weight, thank you very much, and he also knew his limit.

 

Or so he thought before he found himself running to the toilet and throwing up in the nearest cubicle, missing the toilet by only a few inches. The smell was making things worse, but Sam felt too weak to move back onto his feet. His vision was blurred around the edges, and he had to blink several times to regain some focus. Sam faintly heard someone come into the bathroom and crouch next to him. A soft, yet firm hand grabbed his arm and tugged at him in an attempt to move him away from the puke on the floor.

 

“Don’ tou… don’ touch me”

 

His speech sounded slurred. Whoever was pulling at him ignored his request, now using a second hand to haul Sam onto his feet, which was an achievement and a half. Sam tried to recognize the person next to him, and after several seconds Gabriel’s familiar face came into focus.

 

“Gaaaaabe…”

 

“For Heaven’s sake, Sam, look at the state of you”

 

“Gabe…” Sam started giggling when he noticed his friend’s adorable frown. Forgetting what he was about to say, the taller man touched Gabriel’s nose with his forefinger, uttering a soft ‘boop’ before cracking up again.

 

“You’re too far gone, kiddo”

 

“Hey, hey… what do you call an Amish guy with his hand in the mouth of a horse?”, Sam asked Gabriel, who merely sighed heavily at his words.

 

“I don’t know… what?”

 

“A mechanic”

 

Sam wheezed loudly at his own joke, tears prickling at the corner of his eyes. Gabriel rolled his eyes, but the taller man noticed the shadow of a smile on his friend’s face.

 

“Idiot. C’mon, we need to get you home”

 

“Nooooo … I don’t wanna go home yet, I wanna spend time wi’ you”, Sam whined, pulling Gabriel close to him in a desperate hug. The smaller man tried to wriggle free from the embrace, but Sam’s hold only tightened. “Don’t leave me, Gaaaabe…”

 

“Okay, okay Sammich I won’t leave, but… need to… breathe!”

 

Sam looked down at the squirming man questioningly. It took him several more seconds to register what Gabriel meant by those words, but eventually he let go. His hands reached for Gabriel’s as he put on the best puppy eyes he could muster. That used to work with Dean. It would certainly work with Gabriel.

 

“Sorry…”

 

“Don’t worry, kiddo. You’re lucky I’ve become immune to the smell of puke. Let’s go into the fresh air, yeah?”

 

“Okay”

 

Gabriel did not let go of Sam’s hand, dragging him outside as quickly as he could so people would not notice how drunk the taller man was and kick them out. As soon as they stepped outside, Sam felt the fresh air cool his flushed cheeks. His drunken state only seemed to intensify upon stepping outside. He could not get rid of the bitter taste in his mouth. His legs felt like jelly, and it became hard to stand on his own two feet. Sam’s back found a nearby wall, and soon enough the taller man let his body drag down the rough surface until his butt hit the sidewalk.

 

“’m not feelin’ so good…”, Sam admitted when the nauseous feeling returned. Gabriel came to sit down next to him, and Sam found his presence comforting. The smell of leather and aftershave somehow managed to settle his stomach. Unbeknownst to him, Sam buried his nose in the crook of Gabriel’s neck where the smell was strongest. He felt his body relax as he took in the familiar fragrance.

 

“Alright, kiddo, just hang in there”, Gabriel whispered to him as he wrapped an arm around Sam’s shoulders. The taller man felt warm and safe in his friend’s embrace. In Sam’s mind, there was nothing more comfortable than Gabriel’s arms. Wait, why was he thinking that?

 

“You’re good for me, Gabriel”, Sam admitted in a hushed tone.

 

“Shh, kiddo, just relax…”

 

“No, I mean it” Sam fidgeted so that he could look Gabriel in the eye, noticing the soft smile playing on the other man’s lips. That smile did things to Sam. He wondered what it would be like to kiss Gabriel. “You’re really the best thing that happened to me. You make me happy, and I love spending time with you”

 

“I like spending time with you, too, Sammy”

 

“See, not everyone gets to call me Sammy without gettin’ punched” Sam nodded knowingly, a serious expression plastered on his face. “You’re special…”

 

“Well, thank you”, was all Gabriel said. The two stared at each other for a while, enjoying the silence that settled between them. Gabriel’s golden eyes were warm, loving, caring…

 

“Gabe?”

 

“Hm?”

 

Sam momentarily forgot what he wanted to ask Gabriel as soon as his eyes fell on the other man’s tempting lips. Deciding that his drunken mind would be useless to him now, Sam shifted again in the smaller man’s embrace and brought their faces closer. He thought he could feel Gabriel tense at the gesture, but the blonde did not push him away or pull away from him… so Sam did not stop. He paused just before his lips touched Gabriel’s, giving him one more chance to change his mind. Instead, Gabriel gently kissed the man in his arms. It was not a passionate kiss, or one that was shared in the heat of the moment. It felt innocent, but genuine. Sam found the feelings that were triggered by that kiss intoxicating. Just as chastely, he kissed Gabriel again, this time feeling the other man deepen the kiss as he buried his hand in Sam’s hair. For the first time in a while, Sam prayed to God that this moment would never end.

 

The next thing Sam remembered was waking up in a strange bed the next morning.

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten

 

 

Sam woke up groggy and feeling like he had been hit in the head full force with a metal baseball bat. Groaning loudly, he shifted onto his other side, intent on going back to sleep. However, his body seemed to have other plans. His muscles were aching, his head was pounding like hell, and his stomach threatened to send back all the alcohol it had consumed the previous night if Sam so much as blinked. Opening his eyes proved to be a trial and a half despite the darkness of the room. Sam tried to recall the events of the previous nights, and more specifically how he had managed to get back to Mrs McCarthy’s place. The last thing he recalled was the barwoman flirting with him and the awkward excuse he had used to turn down her advances. Oh, boy! How humiliating. Gabriel would probably never let him forget that. Sam tried in vain to think of anything else, but barring the music, he seemed to have no recollection whatsoever.

 

Well, there was this weird dream he had about him and Gabriel kissing outside the bar. Sam blushed at the memory. It had felt so real. Sam tried to remember every feeling, every sensation… he could pinpoint them all, feeling his heart race in his chest as he played the dream over and over in his head. For God’s sake, he was acting like a freakin’ teenager. His growing boner did nothing to make his situation even remotely better. At least his head stopped pounding while his dick had dibs on the blood supply. Sam knew he would have to face Mrs McCarthy sooner or later, and that thought was enough to sober him up. She would be so disappointed in him that she might not even want to speak to him. Oh well… there was only one way to find out.

 

Sam pushed the covers aside and swung his legs out of the bed, his feet touching the soft rug under the bed. Wait, what? Since when did he have a rug in his bedroom? His feet were usually met with the sharp coldness of the floorboards in the morning. Strange… Sam stood up and took several composing breaths before even attempting to adjust his eyesight to the darkness of the room. Only then did realisation dawn on him.

 

This was not his room.

 

His first instinct was to panic. A thousand thoughts flashed through his mind, each more terrifying than the next. Sam glanced at the bed, praying to God that he had slept in it on his own. The last thing he wanted was to find out he had a one-night-stand with some random stranger. Thankfully, Sam found the bed to be empty. Crisis number one averted. But if he was not at home, where was he? Had he remembered to message Mrs McCarthy? Phone. He had to find his phone.

 

Sam switched on a light and squinted as his eyes adjusted to the brightness. Fuck, that had definitely been the wrong move. His head began thumbing once again, the pain acute enough to make him feel dizzy. His eyes scanned the room, but Sam could not see his phone anywhere. Great frickin’ fantastic. Sam backed up until his back met the door, which he gladly leaned against as he waited for the nauseous waves to subside. He thought he heard the soft pitter-patter of claws hitting the floorboard right outside the bedroom. The sound was followed by a shrill, high-pitched whine. A dog? Sam’s curiosity took over; he opened the door and came face to face with an excited Jack Russel waggling its tail in excitement. Not just any dog, either… Loki. Gabriel’s dog!

 

This was Gabriel’s room!

 

Loki sniffed at Sam’s naked foot, seemingly recognising his scent judging by the way his tiny paws scratched at his bare leg demandingly. Sam crouched before the dog and pet his head affectionately. Loki twisted so he could sniff and lick at Sam’s hand, an action that brought a smile to the man’s face.

 

“Good mooorning, Sleeping Beauty. How’s the hangover treating ya?”, Gabriel greeted Sam, his voice slightly too loud and far too cheery for someone with a massive hangover to have to deal with so early in the morning.

 

“Shut up”, Sam muttered under his breath as he struggled to straighten back up again. The mocking smirk on Gabriel’s face earned the blond a signature bitch face from Sam. At the sound of his master’s voice, Loki lost interest in their guest and strutted to Gabriel’s side. Sam watched fondly as the small dog stood on its back legs with his front paws pressed against the janitor’s thigh expectantly. Gabriel absent-mindedly tickled Loki’s ears with his finger.

 

“Come through, Samshine. I made you a hangover cure that will get rid of that nausea in less time than it took you to get absolutely shit-faced last night, and yes that is saying something!”

 

Sam looked suspiciously at his friend, but decided to follow Gabriel into the kitchen anyway. The smell of coffee invaded his nostrils and made him feel sick all over again. Before he could excuse himself, Gabriel handed him a glass filled with a brownish liquid very similar to the color of chocolate milk. It did not look repulsing, which was the only reason why Sam politely accepted the drink. He had not realised until then how thirsty he was. His throat was dry and his mouth pasty. Sam brought the glass to his lips, but he stopped himself as soon as he caught a whiff of the ‘cure’ Gabriel presented him with.

 

“It smells gross…”

 

“Well then, you better drink it fast”, Gabriel advised, looking nonplussed. Sam was not sure if it was a good idea, but followed his friend’s directions anyway. He only managed three sips before he felt his stomach churn unpleasantly.

 

“Ew, ew, I’m gonna throw up”, Sam told Gabriel before running to the bathroom. He thought he faintly heard the blond chuckle, but at this point he could not be sure of anything anymore. Sam emptied his stomach into the toilet bowl, and only reappeared a good ten minutes later. Gabriel was still in the kitchen, flipping pancakes like a professional and chopping up fresh fruit that made Sam’s stomach rumble hungrily. A glance at the wall clock told Sam that it was 11am… it had been a while since he had slept in that late.

 

“How was the shake?”

 

“You’re a dick”

 

“You’re welcome. By the way, you’re phone’s on the table. I took the liberty of calling Mrs McCarthy to let her know that you were not feeling so well and that I was looking after you” Sam felt guilt overwhelm him at Gabriel’s statement.

 

“What did she say?”, he asked his friend anxiously.

 

“Honestly? She laughed and hoped that you were okay. I believe her exact words were that boy needed a break anyway

 

Sam briefly wondered if Gabriel was making fun of him, but the younger man had to admit that it did sound like something his elderly cohabitee would say. Relief washed over him, and Sam finally managed to relax. Everything was fine. Crisis number two avoided.

 

“And uh… how did I get in your bed?”

 

“How do you think? I carried you there”, Gabriel told the other man, surprising Sam with his admission. “I admit, it wasn’t easy, and my back was begging me not to sleep on the couch, but I fit on it better than you do”

 

“You didn’t sleep in the same bed?” Sam was not sure why his tone suddenly sounded so hesitant. Gabriel merely snorted.

 

“Dude, I dropped you onto the bed and you properly star-fished on it, there was no way I was gonna get any room even if I tried. I’m glad I didn’t stay, though… you snore like a tractor, did anyone ever tell you that?” Sam had the decency to blush at Gabriel’s comment. Thankfully, the blond did not expect an answer from his guest. He merely flipped five pancakes onto a plate and added some strawberries, mango and grapes before placing the plate in front of Sam, together with a bottle of commercial maple syrup. The remaining five pancakes were drowned in strawberry syrup and sprinkled with chocolate chips, which made Sam slightly worried about Gabriel’s health. He knew his friend had a sweet tooth, but that seemed a little bit excessive.

 

“So, Sammykins, what do you remember from last night?”

 

“Honestly, not that much. I remember the barwoman flirting with me and using you as an excuse to get rid of her, but that’s pretty much it. Then it’s all just a blur of rock music and whiskey. Look, Gabe… I realise I must’ve been a mess last night. And I’m really sorry for everything that happened, alright? It was all just a big mistake, and it won’t happen again. I just don’t want any of it to impact our friendship, you know?”

 

Gabriel’s mocking smirk disappeared suddenly, and so did his appetite judging by the way he dropped his fork on his plate resignedly. Sam did not quite understand the reaction. Had he said something wrong? He was clearly missing something, but what he was not entirely sure.

 

“Don’t worry about that, Samsquatch”, the blond eventually said, forcing a reassuring smile, “I figured you would”

 

There was a sadness to Gabriel’s voice that made Sam want to hit himself in the shin. However, the blond’s cheery façade returned before Sam had a chance to question his friend about his behavior. He was not sure what had happened the previous night, and no matter how much he tried to remember, it was like catching smoke with his bare hands. Gabriel had not given him the impression that passing out blind drunk had been an issue at all… in fact, he had seemed pretty cool about it. What could have caused the change in Gabriel’s attitude? Suddenly, it hit Sam like a mace to the head.

 

His dream… the kiss… what if it had not been a dream at all?

 

“Gabe…?”

 

“Eat up, Sammy. I should drive you back to Palo Alto soon, and I promised Luci yesterday that I would drop by”

 

“Oh… yeah, uh… sure”

 

No, it had all been a dream. How could Sam have fooled himself in believing that Gabriel would ever want to kiss someone like him? A drunk, just like his father. Someone who promised that he would never cross that line ever again, but would end up disappointing his friends and family over, and over. Gabriel was embarrassed, and was just putting up a polite front. No one liked taking care of a passed out drunk. Sam could speak from experience. Many a time, he had witnessed Bobby just leaving John to sleep on the front porch because he had been too drunk unlock the door. Something broke inside the younger Winchester at the thought that he had probably acted just like his mess-up of a father. He had vowed that he would never sink so low.

 

How could he blame Gabriel for wanting him out of his life?  

 

“Gabriel?”

 

“Whaddup, Samshine?”

 

“Are we good?”

 

Gabriel seemed surprised by Sam’s question, and he thought he did a good job at hiding it. Sam was not a fool, though. He had learned a long time ago how to read between the lines. It was a skill he had acquired easily living with his brother and Bobby, both equally as emotionally-constipated as the other.

 

“Yeah, Sam. We’re good”

 

Somehow, Sam had a hard time believing his friend’s words.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven

 

This is Gabe, leave a message.

 

BEEP. Sigh.

 

“Gabe, it’s me… again. Look, I know I messed up last Friday. I messed up big time. I never meant to get so drunk, okay? If I could, I would turn back time and make sure none of this ever happened. Please, you have to believe me. We need to talk, okay? Just… there’s so much I want to say to you, so if you could just – “

 

BEEP.

 

Sam’s jaw tightened in frustration. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to compose himself, and to organise his feelings. He failed miserably. Sam wanted to throw his phone out the window, but he knew it would not be enough to destroy his sturdy Nokia. Sam pressed the red button on the keypad.

 

It had been six days since the last time he had seen or spoken to Gabriel. Not that he had counted.

 

At least, being away from his friend meant that Sam was able to focus on his studying without any distraction, but the feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day had felt bittersweet. He had sat his first two exams earlier that morning, and he had wished to tell Gabriel how well he thought he did in them. But Gabriel was not answering his phone. All of Sam’s efforts to contact him, or catch him on campus, had failed. All fifteen voicemails and twenty-two texts had gone unanswered. Sam was beginning to feel like a stalker.

 

Sam’s throat contracted uncomfortably as his emotions got the better of him. He wished there was someone he could talk to about all this. He stared at his phone blankly for several minutes before speed-dialling Dean’s number hesitantly. His brother may not understand, but their relationship had vastly improved since Dean’s visit. Sam knew his brother would either try to cheer him up, or be brutally honest… the younger Winchester was not sure which of the two he needed to hear the most.

 

“Sup, Sammy?”

 

Sam hated the way his lower lip quivered at the sound of Dean’s voice calling him by his nickname. Tears welled up in the younger Winchester’s eyes, and he felt his face flush as he struggled to contain his emotions. Sam’s attempt to draw a steadying breath failed miserably. His voice caught in his throat, causing a strangled sob to push past his lips.

 

“Woah, hey Sammy, calm down…”, Dean tried to soothe him, clearly startled by his younger brother’s reaction.

 

“Dean…”

 

The rest of Sam’s sentence got stuck somewhere at the back of his throat. No matter how hard he tried, he could not speak to his brother. He started to feel like he was suffocating.

 

“Sammy, what happened? Did something go wrong at school? Do I need to come down and beat someone up? Talk to me”

 

Sam remained speechless as he let his tears run freely down his cheeks. Crying on the phone to Dean was embarrassing enough as it was, but the fact that Sam had neither the strength nor the will to stop or hang up the phone made the situation even worse. Dean thankfully did not pressure him to talk. Instead, the older Winchester took it upon himself to start the conversation.

 

“You’ll never guess who I met in town today. Remember Sheriff Jodi Mills? She’s the one who found you in the woods that one time you took a shortcut home from school, and got lost. Anywho, she was asking about you. I told her that you were studying at Stanford to become a fancy lawyer. Man, lemme tell ya, she was impressed. She wouldn’t leave me alone until I promise her I would take you down to her place as soon as you’re back”

 

Sam chuckled slightly at Dean’s words, sniffling pitifully as he wiped his eyes on his sleeve. Dean’s voice was comforting; listening to him talk was enough to calm Sam down.

 

“We had a lot of snow after I came back from Cali. The garage was shut for two days, but we’re keepin’ afloat. I made 1000$ hustling pool on the way, that’s lasted for a while. Bobby wasn’t that happy about it, but hey it paid the bills so he mostly kept his cakehole shut about it”

 

There was a silence on the other line, almost as if Dean was considering what to say next. Or perhaps he was hoping Sam would finally come out of his shell and talk.

 

“But hey, as soon as you’re a famous lawyer, you’ll sort us out no doubt, amiright kid?”, Dean joked, earning himself another small chuckle from Sam.

 

“Of course I will”, Sam promised, his voice still trembling and teary.

 

“’Atta boy. So… what’s up?”

 

Sam was not too sure where to begin, or how to phrase what had happened between him and Gabriel. He suddenly felt very weary and exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally.

 

“Gabe and I had a fight, and… I messed up, Dean. He won’t talk to me, and I lost my only friend. I don’t know why it hurts so much with him, it’s not the first time this happened to me, you know? I didn’t know him for that long, so why does it hurt so much?”

 

Dean pondered Sam’s words briefly. The younger Winchester could almost see his brother purse his lips in concentration as he thought of the right words to use to comfort his brother.

 

“Okay, what was the fight about in the first place?” Sam took a deep breath before telling Dean all about that night. Well, most of it, anyway.

 

“And the next morning, he made me breakfast and then suddenly, his attitude changed. Dean, do you think he hates me? I wouldn’t blame him if he did… after all, I hate myself for letting myself go like that. I… I felt like a failure… I’m no better than dad…”, Sam admitted, feeling close to tears again.

 

“Hey, don’t ever say that again, alright?”, Dean snapped angrily, although Sam knew his annoyance was not directed at him, “Sammy, you’re nothing like him! He was a loser who didn’t care enough about his family to quit drinking. You were just having fun, and underestimated your limits. It happens, man. You’re not the first one to be in that situation, and you certainly won’t be the last. Hell, I’m ready to bet both my hands on it that Gabriel found himself in that kind of situation many a time before…”

 

“So why is he ignoring me?”, Sam asked stubbornly. The line briefly went silent.

 

“Something else must have happened. Maybe it’s not about you, you know? Maybe his dick brother Michael was at the works again?”, Dean suggested.

 

“No, I… I saw it in his eyes, Dean. When I said I regretted everything that happened, I… he was sad. Disappointed. Probably disappointed in me, because he can see right through the act…”

 

“What act? Sammy, you’re not an alcoholic! Stop trying to convince yourself that you are, or that getting drunk makes you a bad person. You were having fun! If Gabriel minded that much, he would not have taken you back to his place, trust me on this. Something else must have happened that night… can you really not think of anything?”

 

“Well…”, Sam hesitated momentarily, something which Dean undoubtedly picked up on. There was no going back now; Sam had to be honest, or his brother would pester him for days until he spilt the beans. “I had this weird dream that he and I kissed… and for a second, I thought that it might have happened, but he wouldn’t ever want to kiss someone like me. It just… doesn’t make any sense to me”

 

“Oh dude”, Dean sighed at the other end. Sam thought he heard the sound of his brother slapping his forehead in irritation, but it could have just been bad reception. Sioux Falls was not reputed to be the most phone-friendly town in the US. “You can’t be that blind…”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Man, nobody is that oblivious. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the way the guy looks at you? And the way you look at him, if I might add. You two are worse than love-sick puppies, it’s absolutely ridiculous!”

 

“What? No, I…”

 

“Cut the crap, Sammy”, Dean interrupted brusquely, “you two go all googly-eyed when you’re around each other, and if this was a frickin’ cartoon, Gabriel’s heart would burst out of his chest every time you breathe! He could star as the howling wolf in a Looney Tunes episode!”

 

Sam huffed indignantly at his brother’s insinuation, but he had to admit that Dean painted a pretty comical picture. The younger Winchester desperately wanted to believe his brother’s words, but he could not bring himself to take him seriously.

 

“Dean, I told you the kiss was just a – “

 

“Don’t give me that crap. The kiss happened! It’s the only explanation I see for why Gabriel reacted the way he did when you told him you regretted everything that happened. He’s not avoiding you because you passed out, or had too much to drink. He’s trying to get over the disappointment of you regretting the kiss you think you dreamed, but which did in fact happen! Seriously dude, it’s like watching a freakin’ soap opera!”

 

“But what if you’re wrong, Dean? What if he laughs at me?” There was genuine insecurity lacing Sam’s tone, and he knew that he sounded pathetic. He did not really care in that instant. All that mattered was solving his Gabriel conundrum.

 

“Sammy, I promise you I’m not wrong. Ask anyone who’s seen you guys interact, and they’ll tell you exactly what I told you. Just trust my gut feeling on this one, okay?”

 

Sam knew deep down that Dean made a good point. Maybe the kiss had not, in fact, been a dream. Sam felt like an idiot. A heartless idiot. He did not regret kissing Gabriel. He would never forget the way his ‘dream’ had left him feeling; safe, protected, loved, cherished… finding out that the kiss had actually happened would fill his heart with unconditional joy. Why it had taken him so long to realise that he liked Gabriel that way, Sam did not know. Dean was right, they had to address the massive rainbow-coloured elephant in the room.

 

Or Gabriel would be gone forever.

 

“Okay. I need to talk to Gabe”

 

OoO

 

This is Gabe, leave a message.

 

BEEP.

 

“Gabe… it’s Sam. I don’t know if you’re listening to these voicemails, but… we need to talk. That night… we kissed, didn’t we? I stupidly thought that it was all just a dream, and that you would never feel like that towards me. Or maybe you don’t, and that’s why you’re avoiding me. I just want you to know… I would never regret kissing you. Ever. So if you get this, could – “

 

BEEP.

 

That would do. All Sam had to do now was wait. He picked up his History of American Civil Rights Movements textbook and lost himself in his studying.

 

OoO

 

Turns out Sam did not have to wait long for Gabriel to call him back. Three and a half hours after his last voicemail, Sam’s phone buzzed loudly next to him. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Gabriel’s name pop up on the screen. Heart pounding, Sam brought the device to his hear.

 

“Gabe…”

 

“A dream? What the fuck is wrong with you? Of course it wasn’t a dream, you blithering dingbat!”, Gabriel’s voice shouted at him through the receiver, “why else would I stop talking to your sorry ass? Because you passed out? Newsflash, you oblivious moose, you’re not the first one of my friends to pass out on me. You were, however, the first one who fainted after sharing a mind-blowing kiss! Honestly for a Stanford student, you’re sometimes dimmer than low beams!”

 

“I… look Gabe, I’m sorry…”, was all Sam managed to say before the blond resumed his rant.

 

You’re sorry, are you? Good! So, you should be, asshat! I’ve been thinking about that kiss for a week. I felt like an idiot!”

 

“You’re not an idiot, Gabe… I’m the idiot”

 

“Damn right you are…”, Gabriel muttered under his breath. However, the blond still had to hang up on him. Sam took that as a win.

 

“I admit I acted stupidly and selfishly, even. But I meant what I said in my message: I don’t regret kissing you. I genuinely thought it didn’t happen, and I was scared to mention it because… well, because I thought there was no way someone like you would ever want to be with someone like me. I’m… I’m broken, okay? There’s so much you don’t know about me. And if you knew them, you might go running for the hills and never come back… and I wouldn’t be able to blame you, because my life is fucked up, okay? But… I’m willing to give this… us… a shot if it means keeping you by my side”

 

“I don’t want you to agree to a relationship just because you don’t want me to leave your life. That’s not healthy, Sam. And I don’t want that for you… or me”, Gabriel added with a hint of sadness.

 

“No, that’s not what I meant. I… I want to give us a go anyway. When you kissed me back, I… all those feelings, it was beautiful. Not talking to you for a week was torture. I’m happiest when I’m spending time with you. And I’m sorry if it took this time apart for me to realize how important you are to me… but, better late than never, right?”

 

The only indication that Gabriel was still on the line was the sound of his breathing. Sam gave the blond some time to process all the things he had said. He was willing to be patient if it meant having things go back to normal between him and the janitor. Well, back to normal with the addition that they would be dating. The thought made the butterflies in Sam’s stomach go wild. That was a positive reaction… definitely a positive one.

 

Just so you know, nothing could make me run away from you. But it’s cute that you think your childhood traumas will get you out of this relationship…”

 

Sam could hear the grin in Gabriel’s tone, and once the blond’s words properly hit home, Sam relaxed. Relief washed over him as a wide, happy grin spread across his face.

 

“So, does that mean…?”

 

“Yeah, Samsquatch. See you tomorrow afternoon for coffee? I mean, if you’re not too busy revising. I know the law exams are on this week…”

 

“I’m sure I’ll find time to come see you. I’m pretty much done with my revision anyway”

 

“Of course, you are”, Gabriel laughed, a sound that filled Sam’s heart with joy.

 

All was good in the best of worlds. Sam would find himself regretting many of his choices later in life, but the decision to date Gabriel Shurley would never be one of them. Not even when things got tough.

 

And boy, did they get tough…

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve

 

 

“So, that’s you leaving us again, kiddo. Feels like we’ve barely had you back, and you’re gone again,” Bobby commented, trying hard to not sound too emotional at the prospect of seeing Sam off.

 

“Yeah. I’ll be back soon, though. Christmas isn’t that far away…,” Sam tried to reassure his father-figure, but Bobby did not even crack a smile at the younger Winchester’s words. There were not many people at Omaha Union Station, which made the situation even more awkward for everyone involved. Dean had not uttered a word since the three of them had stepped out of the car after their two-hour drive from Sioux Falls.

 

“I’ll see about coming down before then. Am curious to meet that boyfriend o’ yours.” Sam blushed at Bobby’s use of the term. It still felt weird calling Gabriel his boyfriend, but that was what he had been for four months. Sam felt the butterflies in his stomach go wild at the mention of the blond’s name. The nearly 48-hour journey back to Palo Alto would be worth it once he was back in Gabriel’s arms after two months apart.

 

“I would love that,” Sam told the older man as he embraced him swiftly, knowing that Bobby was not one to linger on hugs too much. The younger Winchester then turned to face his silent brother.

 

“I’ll miss you, jerk.”

 

“Yeah… same here, bitch,” Dean said. To Sam’s surprise, his brother did not think twice about pulling the taller man close into a tight hug. Sam buried his face in the crook of Dean’s neck and fully surrendered to the sensation of his brother embracing him. It happened so rarely that the younger Winchester knew to cherish the instances when they happened.

 

“Stay safe Sammy, yeah? Take care of yourself, and don’t work too hard. You don’t have to be top of the class to make us proud, you hear me?” The barely perceptible trembling of Dean’s voice betrayed his emotional state. Sam felt close to tears, but he bravely swallowed the lump in his throat before addressing his brother again.

 

“Sure. I promise I’ll take it slower.”  

 

Dean let go of the younger Winchester, taking several steps back and avoiding Sam’s gaze. The three of them stood in silence, listening to the tinny voice announcing the arrival of the Amtrak train to Reno. Sam knew that this was his cue to leave. He would make it short and quick. He would be back soon anyway.

 

“Right uh… I should probably go now…,” Sam said.

 

“Off ya go, boy. Stay outta trouble.” Bobby offered Sam one of his rare smiles, although it did not quite reach his eyes. Dean did not say another word, looking like he was about to bolt back to the Impala in a desperate attempt to get away from all the feelings that seeing Sam off stirred in him.

 

“See ya, guys. I’ll message you when I’m in Reno,” Sam promised. He took one last look at his small family before heading to his train. Goodbyes had never been his forte, but it was for the best. When he was a lawyer, and earned his own money, he would visit Bobby and Dean often. Or pay for their trip to wherever Sam would be then. Things would be easier. He just had to get there.

 

Sam got on the train quickly enough, and sat down before sliding his phone out of his pocket and sending Gabriel a text.

 

Leaving Omaha soon. I’ll let you know when I’m in Reno.

 

Sam settled himself as comfortably as possible and opened the new book he had bought especially for the nearly 2-day journey. He would catch some sleep before reaching Nevada, but that was another 9 and a half hours away. Sam’s phone buzzed again when Gabriel sent a reply.

 

I can’t wait to see you xo

 

OoO

 

Sam sighed heavily as he woke up that Sunday morning. Gabriel lay next to him in bed, still peacefully asleep. A quick glance at the digital clock told Sam that it was only 5am, and that meant that the blond would not wake up for another couple of hours at least. The younger Winchester recalled the scene at the train station with Dean and Bobby, and his heart clenched in his chest. He hated how homesick he felt. All he had ever wanted to do was leave Sioux Falls. Now that he was gone, he wished he had learned to appreciate his home a bit more. Ever since making amends with Dean, he and his brother had got on better than any time before. During his break from law school, Sam had spent most of his free time with Dean. The older Winchester would pick him up from his summer job at the local diner, and the two brothers would spontaneously decide what to do. Dean was good for Sam; he was teaching him to let go, and it was a skill Sam desperately needed to acquire. Who would be there to teach him that now that Dean was miles away from Palo Alto?

 

Gabriel. That was who.

 

Sam shifted onto his other side and scooched closer to Gabriel, wrapping an arm around him. A soft smile appeared on the taller man’s lips when the blond wriggled closer to him in his sleep, his back now pressed firmly against Sam’s chest. This had been the norm since they had started dating. Gabriel, although clearly more experienced than Sam when it came to having sex with a guy, had not even mentioned the possibility of the two of them getting more intimate. The furthest Sam had felt comfortable going was blowjobs, and even that had felt weird at first. It was his first experience with a guy, after all. Sam had hoped that it would get easier to accept with time. Maybe he was putting too much pressure on himself, it would not have been the first time. Thankfully, Gabriel was an understanding and patient boyfriend. There had been times when he would excuse himself and disappear in the bathroom for a suspiciously long while after a particularly heated make-out session, but Sam could deal with that. The last thing he wanted was for Gabriel to get frustrated and leave him for someone who did not shy away from sex.

 

“You think too loud…”

 

Gabriel’s voice was muffled by his pillow as he spoke those words, but he still managed to startle Sam. The blond turned around in Sam’s embrace and looked up at him with tired eyes, his hair tousled and sticking out everywhere.

 

“Sorry I woke you…”

 

“So you should be. I’m no spring chicken, beauty sleep is not an option anymore.”

 

Sam chuckled at the comment, which seemed to instantly brighten Gabriel’s mood. It was sweet how much Sam’s laughter never failed trigger a happy reaction from the blond.

 

“I’m fine. Go back to sleep,” Sam tried to reassure the other man, but Gabriel had never been one to drop the subject easily. He was like a dog with a bone whenever he felt someone he cared about was going through something. Damn his stubbornness.

 

“Cut the crap, Samshine. C’mon, tell me. Might as well now that I’m awake…”

 

“It’s just… I guess it’s the stress of going back to law school on Tuesday. I still need to buy some textbooks, notepads, pens…”

 

“I can steal pens and notepads from offices,” Gabriel joked, although Sam would not put it past the janitor. “I also have a key to the supply room.”

 

“Aren’t you resourceful,” Sam placed a quick kiss on Gabe’s lips, “It’s not just that, though. I’m homesick, too. And I know most students will feel that way after coming back in September, but… it’s just…”

 

“There’s something else bothering you, Sam. Just tell me, it’s the only way I can help.” Sam sighed heavily and pulled Gabriel closer to him, almost as if he feared that the janitor would disappear.

 

“Okay, but… don’t be mad, okay? I was… thinking about us and… how we haven’t been physical yet, and sometimes I worry that you’ll…” Sam hesitated, but Gabriel’s encouraging smile was enough to coax him into finishing his sentence, “… that you’ll leave me”

 

“Oh Sam.” Gabriel moved away from the taller man, who only reluctantly let go of him, and propped himself onto his right elbow. “Listen to me. Sex is the uncomplicated part of a relationship. You kiss, you shag, boom… but for some couples, after the heat of the moment passed, well… there’s nothing else there. Because some people have no idea how to figure out the complicated stuff. We’re doing well on that front, and it’s reassuring to know that one day when we’re older and unable to have sex like horny rabbits, I’ll still be able to enjoy your company, our conversations, your horrendous eating habits…”

 

“Hey!” Sam cried out in mock offence, punching Gabriel’s shoulder playfully as he did so. The blond merely grinned toothily as he pounced onto Sam and did his best at wrestling him into the mattress. Despite Gabriel’s considerably shorter stature, what he did not have in height he definitely made up for in muscle mass. Sam hated to admit that he struggled to get the upper hand again. Dean could never find out about this! Once the two men settled down again in a comfortable cuddling position, Gabriel spoke up again.

 

“Sam, please stop worrying about me leaving you because we haven’t had sex yet. It’s fine, I get it. I’ve been there, and I sure as hell wish my first boyfriend agreed to take things slow, but… I was like you. I was scared of him leaving me. I don’t want your first experience with a guy to be like mine. I want your first experience with a guy to be so mind-blowingly amazing that you will never even consider checking if the grass is greener elsewhere”

 

Those last words were accompanied by Gabriel’s signature eyebrow-wriggle, which diffused the tension in the air as Sam let out a hearty laugh. Kissing the top of Gabriel’s head, the younger Winchester felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest.

 

“Thanks, babe.”

 

“Now lemme sleep. I’ve got plans for us today, so I suggest you do the same.”

 

“Okay then.”

 

It did not take Sam long to fall asleep, Gabriel tucked securely in his arms.

 

OoO

 

“I don’t understand why you think goats are creepy.”

 

“Samshine, they have rectangular pupils! What’s not creepy about that?” Gabriel asked as he fumbled with his keys, trying to open the door to his bungalow. The younger Winchester merely snorted at the other man’s silliness, shaking his head slightly as he followed Gabe inside.

 

“Thanks for today. It was awesome,” Sam thanked Gabriel as he intertwined their fingers and pulled him closer for a quick kiss.

 

“I love zoos, so the pleasure was all mine. Now get ready for a night in with Chinese food and the first Lord of the Rings movie.”

 

“Sounds amazing,” Sam said with a smile.

 

The two of them changed into more comfortable clothes and settled for the evening. Their food arrived relatively quickly, and as soon as they had set up the DVD player, they sat close to each other and ate in silence as they listened to Bilbo Baggins’ 111th birthday speech. Sam wondered if he would make it to the end of the movie awake, feeling rather drained after their day at the zoo and the drive back. He wrapped his arm around Gabriel when the blond cuddled closer to him, rubbing the smaller man’s back absent-mindedly. Halfway through the movie, their comfortable silence was interrupted by a frantic knocking on the door. Sam jerked upwards, shooting Gabriel a questioning look in the process. The blond merely shrugged as he jogged to his door.

 

“Luce? What the hell happened to you?”, Sam heard Gabriel cry out, which is what prompted him to go check on the smaller man.

 

“What do you think?”, the teenager snapped, glaring at his brother with a blackened eye. Sam felt like all the air had been knocked out of his lungs. There was what appeared to be dried blood under Lucien’s nose and on his left temple. He was supporting his right hand with his left, and appeared to be limping when Gabriel urged him to come inside. Sam tried to ignore the itch in his brain at the sight.

 

“Was it one of your friends? Luce, you need to go to the cops.”

 

“My friends would never do anything like that. Michael, on the other hand…”

 

Michael? Michael had done that? The itch in Sam’s brain intensified, and the younger Winchester did not know what exactly was triggering that reaction, but he had a feeling that something was wrong. Gabriel’s eyes betrayed the shock he felt at his younger brother’s words.

 

“What? Michael did this to you?”

 

“Yep. Came home today and he said I smelled of cigarettes. Then he lost his shit.” Lucien was avoiding all eye contact, fidgeting from one foot to the other despite the slight limp Sam had noticed at the start. Gabriel helped his brother sit down on a chair in the kitchen before pulling a first aid kit out of his bottom cupboard. Meanwhile, Sam eyed Lucien carefully. Something did not feel quite right.

 

“What happened exactly? Did he punch you?”

 

“Yep”

 

“With what?” Gabriel asked, his voice growing more and more urgent. There was a surprising lack of detail in Lucien’s retelling of the events, which made Sam feel even more puzzled about the situation.

 

“What do you mean? With his fucking hands! No wait, he also used a belt,” Lucien quickly backtracked, causing Sam to raise an eyebrow. He did not want to dismiss the young man, but his story seemed oddly made up… staged, even.

 

“A belt? Hang on, he hit you in the face with a belt?”

 

“Why are you interrogating me? Are you on his side?”

 

“Luce, I’m just trying to figure out what happened. Michael has never raised a hand on either you or Castiel when you guys were younger…”

 

“Whatever. I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”

 

Without another word, Lucien stood up and went to hide in the bathroom. Sam recognized that behaviour. He had witnessed it with Dean many times. It was the reaction of someone who had been caught lying, and did not want to justify themselves. Bobby would have known instantly what to do in that situation, but Sam? He had always been a third-party to it.

 

“Gabe?”

 

“Michael would never do that, Sam. I’m convinced of it. He’s got his flaws, but he wouldn’t ever beat up his brother… or maybe the war changed him more than I thought.”

 

“No… Gabe, look,” Sam hesitated briefly, struggling to find the right words, “don’t hate me for this, but I’m getting the feeling that Lucien is not being honest…”

 

“What? But why would he lie about our brother hitting him?” Gabriel seemed to have a hard time processing everything that was going on, and Sam could only empathise.

 

“You’d be surprised what people are ready to lie about, and for what reasons. Trust me, I’ve read enough cases on the matter. I’m not saying he’s entirely wrong, just… I don’t know, it seems weird. He’s not giving you any detail, he’s avoiding questions, he’s fidgety…”

 

Gabriel considered Sam’s words, looking conflicted as to how to handle the situation. Sam remained silent, not wanting to interfere more with the situation than he already had.

 

“I need to speak with him.”

 

“Do you want me to leave?”

 

“No, it’s ok,” Gabriel offered a tense smile, “I’ll get to the bottom of this, and after that I’ll probably need a hug anyway.”

 

Sam’s heart broke just a little at those words, but he stayed strong for Gabriel. Giving the two some privacy, the younger Winchester disappeared in the bedroom. It soon became clear that even if he had decided to go for a walk around the block, he would still have managed to hear Lucien and Gabriel’s shouting.

 

“Why would you make this stuff up? Luce, why would you lie about this?”

 

“I need to get out of there! I can’t afford a place and until then, I’m stuck with him!”

 

“So suing him for physical abuse was the way to go? Get a job! Sleep at a mate’s house! Hell, you could have asked me, I would have let you stay here!”

 

You’re always on his side!

 

Do you realize how selfish you are? Tell me, what do you think would have happened to Castiel if Michael was in prison, huh? Did you think about that?”

 

There was a pause where Lucien probably did not know how to respond to his older brother’s words. Sam felt awkward for eavesdropping against his will, but Gabriel had not asked him to leave. He was not doing anything wrong. Still, the situation felt grotesquely weird.

 

“Luce…,” Gabriel’s voice softened considerably as he used his brother’s nickname, “I know things have been hard on you since mum and dad died, but you have to realise that it’s been hard on all of us. If anything, especially on Michael. He became a father to a child and a teenager, and the only help he had was me. Unemployed me, at that. For months before I got my job, we lived off his retirement money from the army, which was not much. Sometimes it was barely enough to feed you and Castiel, and that had to be our priority at all times”

 

“How can you defend him? After all the horrible things he said about you…” Lucien sounded disbelieving, even shocked by Gabriel’s words.

 

“Michael has his convictions. And yeah, he’s a dick to me most of the time, but I can’t forget how he took care of this family after mum and dad died. And you shouldn’t either. We’ve all been through shit, but if Michael hadn’t been there we would have been through worse! I would have been a terrible parent, trust me.”

 

Sam felt relief wash over him when the shouting finally stopped. It brought back memories of Bobby and John arguing late at night, waking up the two brothers from their sleep as slurs were thrown carelessly around the room. Sam waited a little while to make sure that the two brothers had calmed down before venturing out of the bedroom. Gabriel was calling Lucien a cab while the young man sat silently on the couch, raising his eyes only when he noticed Sam come in. He had washed the blood off his face and the swelling around his eyes had lessened somehow. The cheeky wink Lucien sent his way made the taller man blush a deep crimson.

 

“Your cab will be there in ten. What are you gonna tell Michael about the black eye?”, Gabriel asked when as soon as he hung up the phone.

 

“The truth, I guess. Got into a fistfight with my mate. I might not tell him that I tried to use that to my advantage to get back at him for being a first-class asshole.”

 

Gabriel’s disapproving glare did nothing to diminish the satisfied smile on Lucien’s face. The janitor shook his head and disappeared in the kitchen, no doubt to cool down. Sam followed him, wanting to make sure his boyfriend was ok.

 

“Not now, Sam.”

 

“We don’t have to talk. But you did mention that you might need a hug?”

 

Sam opened his arms wide when Gabriel turned around to face him. A soft smile appeared on the blond’s face as he gladly hid in Sam’s strong embrace. Neither of them knew for exactly how long they stood in Gabriel’s kitchen, hugging each other like two desperate men, but that did not really matter to them.

 

All that mattered was that they had each other.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen

 

Gabriel parked outside Michael’s house and took a deep breath to compose himself. He did not hate his older brother per say, he just hated the man Michael had become. There was a time when Gabriel and Michael had been the best of friends. They used to play together all the time, and were always very protective of each other. Gabriel recalled one time in primary school when he was being picked on by the older kids in Michael’s class. His brother had come to his rescue, beating up his own classmates so they would leave Gabriel alone. Which they did, even through high school. Nobody wanted to mess around with Michael Shurley’s little brother.

 

Gabriel had always looked up to Michael. He had always been able to confide in his older brother. There had never been any secrets between them, and they would stick up for each other whenever their parents would give them into trouble. So obviously, when Gabriel decided to come out to Michael, he had expected a different reaction from his usually supportive brother. Gabriel shook his head to get rid of the painful memories before stepping out of his pick-up truck. He was wearing his best suit for the traditional Sunday-lunch with his brothers, as if dressing nicely would make up for not showing up in church… again. Gabriel was relieved when Castiel answered the door.

 

“Hello, Gabriel…”

 

“Loosen up, Cas, this is supposed to be a fun family get-together,” Gabriel replied sarcastically, pushing past Castiel into the two-storey house that once belonged to his parents when they were still alive. Every time Gabriel stepped foot in their family home, something inside him broke. Michael had left everything the way it had been ten years ago, which meant the décor was ever so slightly outdated by now. Only the rooms had been remodelled as Cas and Luce were growing up. Gabriel’s room had been turned into a study/storage area, while the parental suite remained exactly as Chuck and Naomi Shurley had left it. The only exception was that the door to their parents’ bedroom was always locked. It was almost as if Michael expected their parents to return to a freshly-made bed, and a spotless kitchen and living room, like the car crash that killed them had never happened.

 

Idiot. They were dead. They were never coming back. Why could Michael not let go of the past and focus on the present?

 

“Gabriel, do you want to read my English paper on the Great Gatsby? I got an A+ on it, the teacher said she was very impressed,” Cas bragged, looking incredibly proud of himself as he handed Gabriel his work. At those words, Gabriel heard Lucien snort condescendingly.

 

“You’re such a nerd, Cassie.”

 

“At least he’s making a future for himself. What exactly have you achieved since your formidable C- in physics back in highschool?” Michael’s voice taunted, instantly shutting his younger brother up. Gabriel bit the inside of his cheek to refrain from commenting. Now was not the time to start a fight with his older brother.

 

“Hey Michael, how’re things?” Gabriel asked, hoping his jolly tone would diffuse the tension. It usually did the trick, although he knew that it would not fix the growing wedge between Lucien and Michael.

 

“All is well Gabe, thanks for asking. It’s been a busy week at the station, lots of new students being caught drink-driving, or disrupting the neighbourhoods around Stanford. Typical for September, we’re used to the drill by now.”

 

Gabriel was infinitely glad that Michael had managed to find a job at the Palo Alto Police Department, and that his brother had even taken a liking to it. Gabriel had expected a temper tantrum from his older sibling, but it seemed like Michael was grateful to have a job at all. At least, the skills he had acquired in the military were put to good use, and the job provided a channel for the former soldier’s frustrations. Gabriel pitied any petty offender who had the misfortune of being arrested by Michael. 

 

“What about you? You must be very busy considering you couldn’t find time to come to church this morning…,” the older sibling commented casually, as if his words had not been meant to sound accusatory. Gabriel knew better than to react to Michael’s childish attempt to start a fight.

 

“I am, actually. I’ve picked up some hours at Stanford, money’s been tight recently.”

 

“If you’re struggling with money, you could’ve said. I would’ve helped you out.”

 

And there it was again; the very reason why Gabriel remained so conflicted about Michael’s behaviour. One the one hand, he could be an arch-douche of a human being, intolerant and stuck in his own outdated ways. At the same time, Michael was generous, protective of his family, willing to help the people that were close to him. Yes, Michael was a leader, but he was also the provider, the carer, the older brother who never had a shot at his own life because he had to grow up too quickly. In moments like these, Gabriel almost felt sorry for him.

 

“No offence, but I need to pay my own way in this world.” Michael merely shrugged his shoulders.

 

“I’m just saying. I don’t approve of many of your choices, but that doesn’t mean I would let you live on the streets.”

 

Gabriel would rather sleep on the streets for the rest of his life than move back in with his brother. He could already imagine the rows that would result from this arrangement. It was better for everyone if Michael and Gabriel’s lifestyles remained separate. It would be like forcing two alpha wolves to share the same enclosure; eventually, it would end in bloodshed.

 

“Thanks, bro,” Gabriel said, although he did not really mean it. Castiel chose this moment to hand his paper to the janitor, glowing with unmasked pride judging by the wide grin on his face. A small smile appeared on Gabriel’s lips as he took in the glorious A+ next to the very flattering commentary from Cas’ English teacher. The blond absent-mindedly thought that Sam would love to read this paper, recalling that his boyfriend loved The Great Gatsby when he read it in school. Gabriel knew better than to mention that name in this house after Michael’s reaction to them being friends. Gabriel was not embarrassed of his relationship with Sam, but the reason he did not want to shout it from the rooftops was because he was fed up arguing with his older brother about his life choices. Even though he and Sam were dating now, it would be a long time before Gabriel would make their relationship official to Michael, especially considering what had happened the last time he had introduced a boyfriend to his family.

 

“This is really good, Cassie. I’ll read it when we come back from lunch, okay?”

 

“Ok,” Cas agreed, his grin still plastered on his face, “Michael really enjoyed it.”

 

Of course he did. Michael treated Castiel like his son, and he loved to bask in the light of the teenager’s achievements. Castiel’s victories were Michael’s victories. The pride the older sibling felt towards the youngest was less altruistic than most people cared to realise. Michael was turning Cas into the perfectly obedient little soldier, and the thought left a bitter aftertaste in Gabriel’s mouth.

 

“I’m sure anyone would enjoy it,” Gabriel assured his youngest brother, ruffling the dark mane affectionately, earning himself an annoyed look from the teenager. The look was met with a satisfied smirk.

 

“Cas, Luce, go get yourselves ready for the restaurant.”

 

Cas followed the order instantly, and Gabriel was surprised to see Luce do the same. It was a nice change from his usual challenging behavior. Judging by Michael’s pleased expression, the older sibling had been expecting more resistance as well. Perhaps today was not going to be as awful as Gabriel had envisaged. His mind wandered back to Sam, and a comforting warmth spread in his stomach. Sam, his happy place. Handsome, sexy, caring Sam.

 

So long as he had his boyfriend in his life, Gabriel felt like he could take on the world.

 

OoO

 

“Look Michael, I know you feel very strongly about Luce and Cassie not wanting to visit mum and dad’s grave, but they’re old enough to make their own decisions now,” Gabriel argued as he drove onto the highway towards San José. Michael merely huffed disapprovingly, but refrained from making any further comments on his younger brothers’ behaviors.

 

“I’m glad you came. I hate going there on my own,” Michael admitted. Gabriel stayed silent, unsure how to reply. There was a time when he would have known how to handle an emotional Michael, but he had forgotten how to since the two of them had drifted apart. Sitting in the same car as his older brother made Gabriel feel awkward. He sometimes wished that things were different between them, but where would they even begin to mend what was broken? A lot of harm had been done on both sides, and some things were said that could never be forgiven.

 

“Have you ever wondered about moving back to Palo Alto?” Michael asked, genuine curiousity lacing his tone.

 

“If only my job paid enough to afford a place there… but I like it where I am. Not as many students. You get fed up with them after being around them all day, and cleaning up their mess at night.”

 

Michael merely nodded, and if he thought of any comments to make, he kept them to himself. Good. Last thing he needed was a condescending lecture on how to save money and invest in the future. A one-bedroom bungalow was more than enough for him, Loki, and any potential future partners. Not that Gabriel would ever tell Michael that.

 

“Castiel really misses you. It would be good if you could visit us more often.”

 

“It would nice if you would let him visit me more often,” Gabriel countered, his tone growing more irritated by the minute.

 

“Gabe…”

 

“Save it. I know your reasons, and I still think you’re a dick for it. But hey, what can I do? You’re his legal guardian, after all.”

 

Michael did not say another word after that. The remaining of the drive to the Gate of Heaven Cemetery was blissfully silent. Gabriel was grateful for it, although the tension was still palpable in the air. Only once Gabriel’s pick-up was parked in front of the cemetery gates was the silence broken by the sound of seatbelt clicks and slamming car doors. The gravel crunched under their feet as they headed for their parents’ grave. The two brothers silently paid their respects to the deceased, both silently wishing they were still alive. Gabriel was convinced that Michael would not have grown so bitter about life if he did not have to take over parental responsibilities for their younger siblings.

 

“Gabriel, you need to understand…,” Michael started, but was quickly interrupted by Gabriel’s snippy tone.

 

“I really don’t want to argue in front of mum and dad, alright?”

 

“Then don’t.” Michael’s tone was unequivocal and sharp. Gabriel refrained from flinching; he would not give his older brother that satisfaction. Castiel might still have been easily influenced by the aura of power that radiated from the former soldier, but Gabriel was an adult. He would not let himself be intimidated by his own brother. “I just don’t understand how you turned out the way you did, that’s all. I want Castiel to do well and not have to worry about prejudice. I want him to go to college…”

 

“Because you think that the reason I never went to college was because I was gay? Wake up, man! Mum and dad dying affected all of us equally, alright? You were not the only one who had to give up on dreams. I didn’t go to college so I could help you take care of Luce and Cas!”

 

“I… didn’t think that culinary school was an option you were seriously considering. I mean, why waste money on college when you could have learned to cook from any chef in town…”

 

Right. That was it! Gabriel glared at Michael, although he knew that it would not affect his brother as much as he hoped. The older of the two stood tall and proud, his gaze hardening when he took in Gabriel’s reaction.

 

“It’s unbelievable how selfish and arrogant you’ve got over the years, Michael. There is a world of possibilities out there for me. And for anyone who dares to chase after their dreams, for that matter. If you’re too self-centred to recognise that, then… well, let’s just say that I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.”

 

“What are you saying?” Michael questioned suspiciously while raising a condescending eyebrow.

 

“It means that if my lifestyle disgusts you so much, then I won’t force you to put up with me any longer. You can call yourself a cab. Goodbye, Michael.”

 

Without another word, Gabriel turned his back on his brother. As he stepped away from him and their parents’ tombstone, he could not help but hope that Michael would apologise, or do something to keep the blond from leaving his life forever. Instead, the wind whistled in his ear like an eerie warning. Michael never cared about you, it seemed to whisper cruelly in Gabriel’s ear, and eventually, he’ll forget all about you. Perhaps this was true, and it might hurt to start with. But Gabriel knew that with time, he too would learn to heal. He too would forget all about Michael.

 

And if he kept repeating that lie to himself, then maybe one day he would start believing it.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen

 

“And that’s when he said, ‘in a court of law, Mr. Winchester, there’s no time to linger on what’s right and wrong. All you need to concern yourself with is applying the law’. What a load of bullshit,” Sam commented as he absent-mindedly doodled on his notepad, his phone held in place against his ear by his shoulder. When the awkward position was becoming uncomfortable, Sam threw his notepad on the floor and lay down on his mattress.

 

“Sounds like you had a hard day, Samshine,” was all Gabriel said in reply to the other man’s rant. Sam raised an eyebrow, noticing his boyfriend’s distracted tone.

 

“It wasn’t all bad, really. Are you ok? You sound tired.”

 

“Just been busy at work, that’s all babe. I guess you’re right, I’m exhausted.”

 

Sam did not like the sound of that. Gabriel had been picking up a lot of hours at Stanford, even working on Sundays now. He had not had a day off in two weeks, and it was starting to show. The dark circles under his boyfriend’s eyes had caught Sam’s attention several days earlier when the two had met up. Gabriel had also not been his usual cheery self, which in retrospect should have been Sam’s second clue that something was wrong.

 

“You sure that’s all it is?”

 

There was a silence at the other end, which confirmed Sam’s suspicions. Gabriel would have to spill the beans now, because there was no way that the younger Winchester was leaving him to deal with whatever was bothering him on his own. Gabriel was always the one doing the cheering up; Sam felt like now was the time to return the favour.

 

“It’s alright, Sam. Nothing for you to worry about.”

 

“Cut the crap, Gabe. C’mon, you know you can tell me anything. What’s up with you?”, Sam urged, his heart racing in his chest. If Gabriel was in trouble, Sam wanted to help him. Whatever it was, he would not judge the other man.

 

“It’s just… “, the blond let out a heavy sigh, “I’ve achieved nothing in my life, and I’m not getting any younger. I just feel like I’ve failed everyone around me.”

 

“Wha – Gabe, why would you say something like that?”

 

“Because it’s the truth, Sam. In two years, you’ll graduate from Stanford law school. Do you really want to be with someone who’s just a janitor?”

 

“How could you even think that? Gabriel, you’re so much more than your job. Although you look pretty sexy in your uniform…,” Sam could not help the proud smile that graced his lips when Gabriel snorted over the phone.

 

“Got a janitor kink, Samshine?”

 

“You betcha I do. Seriously though… if you’re unhappy at your job, why don’t you look to do something else?” Sam suggested. The line was silent as Gabriel considered the other man’s words.

 

“What else would I do, though?”

 

“Well, I remember you saying that your plan was to become a chef. What about culinary school?”

 

“I’m too old for school, Sam. I’ll never get in.” Gabriel’s self-consciousness was endearing, but heart-breaking at the same time. Sam had never thought of his boyfriend as anything but the most confident person on earth. Hearing him doubt himself was confusing.

 

“Maybe you won’t, but one thing’s for sure: you won’t know until you try.”

 

“Culinary school is expensive,” Gabriel argued, as if these words would somehow put an end to the conversation and convince Sam that the whole idea was foolish. But Sam had never been one to give up, and he would certainly not stand by while Gabriel willingly gave up his dream and made the active choice to stay miserable at a job he was starting to resent.

 

“There’s financial aid available to prospective students. Plus, you don’t have to apply now. You can work, save up some money and apply next year. What’s the harm in trying at least? If you have a shot at it, why wouldn’t you take it?”

 

“Because it’s stupid, okay?” Gabriel snapped, which took the younger Winchester by surprise. Stunned, Sam did not speak for several seconds. He could hear Gabriel fidgeting with his phone at the other end, sighing loudly when he realised that he was not getting a reply. “I’m sorry Samshine, it’s been a long two weeks.”

 

“For all it’s worth Gabe, I don’t think your dreams are stupid. Being a chef is hard work, and takes talent. I would be proud to tell everyone you go to culinary school.”

 

“You maybe. But Michael would see it as yet another one of my failures.”

 

“Is that what this is about? You had another fight with Michael?”

 

Silence. Sam could tell he hit a nerve. He was getting ready to apologise when Gabriel spoke again, his voice small and disheartened.

 

“Yeah. Two weeks ago. I told him that I’d stay out of his life if my choices disgust him so much. It’s been two weeks, and I’m starting to think he’s quite happy with that arrangement”

 

The sadness Sam could hear in his boyfriend’s voice made him want to personally punch Michael in his smug, arrogant face. Everything made more sense now that Sam could see the whole picture. Gabriel and Michael had a bad fight. Gabriel decided to pick up hours to distract himself, no doubt. And now he was exhausted from working too hard, his mind was playing tricks on him, and his levels of confidence had hit rock bottom. Poor guy had been dealing with all of this on his own for two weeks. That had the potential to make anyone go crazy.

 

“I’m sorry, Gabe…”

 

“Not seeing him has been a blessing, but I haven’t seen Cas or Luce for two weeks, and I miss them. I text Cas every day, but Luce is not always quick to reply. Michael made it clear that he didn’t want me and Cassie to spend time together alone.”

 

“What? Why not?”

 

“Because I’m gay, and he doesn’t want me to influence him,” came the sarcastic reply, and Sam was ready to bet that those words had been followed by Gabriel’s signature eye-roll.

 

“What, does he think being gay is an infectious disease, or something?”

 

“Apparently.” There was an uncomfortable silence where Sam decided to let Gabriel lead them into their next conversation. It did not take the blond long to change the subject to a much lighter topic. “You really think I have a shot at culinary school?”

 

“If anyone can do it, it’s you Gabe. You’re smart, hardworking and committed. They’d be crazy not to take you. But you don’t have to rush into anything. Have a look at the different schools, I’ll help you keep track of what you find, and get some information on student finance. Make an informed decision about your future.”

 

Sam was not lying when he said that he believed Gabriel had what it took to go to culinary school. Although his boyfriend had never cooked for him, he had baked some mean brownies once that had Sam craving for more after his first bite. And to have Sam crave sugary treats was not something that could be achieved easily. Gabriel had a gift for baking. It would be a shame to see his talent wasted.

 

“The thought of going back to school is terrifying me.”

 

“Yeah, I get that. But you have the passion. Sometimes, that’s more important than skill. Practice will make you perfect, but passion can’t be taught.”

 

Sam knew what he was talking about. Studying law required great analytical skills, but those could be practiced by reading ridiculous amounts of cases and scholarly articles. What was far more important was the determination to succeed in whatever field you wished to specialise in, and for Sam, his passion was what would see him through law school. Gabriel would pass every test with flying colours if he put as much heart in his creation as he did that one time when he baked for Sam. There was no room for doubt in this case.

 

“Thanks babe. I’ll think about it.”

 

“Awesome. Still on for lunch at the weekend?” Sam asked in a hopeful tone.

 

“Of course, wouldn’t miss seeing you for the world.”

 

OoO

 

Sam’s head rested on Gabriel’s lap as the two watched an episode of Friends. After the two had lunch in Palo Alto, the sunshine had given way to torrential rain, which had spooked many people back to the cosiness of their home. Sam and Gabriel had been among those who decided to enjoy a quiet afternoon in. The younger Winchester occasionally glanced up at his boyfriend, who was happily munching on his microwave popcorn. Occasionally, a burst of laughter would disturb Sam’s peaceful state, but he did not mind the sound so much. Seeing Gabriel smile was all Sam wanted considering the blond was so miserable since his fight with his brother.

 

“Loki, come here boy,” Gabriel called out to the dog, whistling for emphasis. Loki bolted out of his doggy bed and sprinted towards the sofa, leaping onto it once he was close enough. He nestled comfortably between Sam’s legs, placing his head on the taller man’s thigh and letting out a content sigh. Everything was perfect.

 

“He really likes you,” Gabriel remarked casually as he wrapped a strand of Sam’s hair around his finger, watching it curl naturally when he let go of it.

 

“Of course, I’m a delight.”

 

“And modest, too. What did I do to deserve someone as perfect as you?” Gabriel mocked, although Sam noticed the shadow of a smile on the other man’s face.

 

“You can call yourself lucky, that’s all I’m gonna say.”

 

A warm feeling pooled in Sam’s stomach at the tenderness he could see in Gabriel’s eyes. The other man’s fingers brushed the hair out of the younger Winchester’s face before resting his hand on Sam’s cheek. The look they shared was intense, and Sam could feel something inside him stir impatiently. He felt the sudden urge to pull Gabriel close and crash their lips together, but considering their current position, it would most likely result in awkwardness and back pains. Instead, the younger Winchester rose to a sitting position and softly pressed his lips to Gabriel’s, enjoying the way his boyfriend leaned into him as they deepened the kiss. The warmth in Sam’s stomach spread through his entire body, and not before long he could feel his dick twitch in his pants. Without a second thought, Sam pulled Gabriel off the couch and dragged him to his own bedroom, only breaking away from each other long enough to catch their breath and make sure they were headed the right way. Once the two reached Gabriel’s bed, Sam sat down on the edge of the mattress and directed the blond to straddle his lap.

 

“I want you, baby…,” Sam whispered as he placed open-mouthed kisses on the spot behind Gabriel’s and all along the blond’s neck. The moan he was met with made Sam shiver with anticipation.

 

“Damnit Sam, you drive me insane.”

 

“Gabe… I need to… fuck… you,” Sam managed to say between kisses. Gabriel’s grinding came to a sudden stop, making the younger Winchester want to whine in frustration.

 

“You… you sure?”

 

“Yes. Baby, I want this. I want you. If you don’t mind, of course…,” Sam quickly added, but Gabriel was quick to shake his head.

 

“Nope, don’t mind, all good,” was all the blond managed before attacking Sam’s mouth once again. “Do you trust me?”

 

“I do.”

 

That was all Gabriel needed to hear. Their kisses grew less hasty, and more loving. Gabriel’s hands found their way under Sam’s t-shirt and started roaming sensually over the soft skin and tight abs. Gabriel let out a pleased groan as his fingers traced every edge of Sam’s stomach. The feather-like touches sent chills down Sam’s spine. Gabriel’s hands travelled round and up Sam’s back, his fingers digging into the tight muscles of Sam’s shoulders.

 

“Damn, you’re so hot,” Gabriel mumbled against Sam’s neck, his hot breath stimulating him even more.

 

“Look who’s talking,” Sam replied, his voice husky. Gabriel leaned forward, forcing Sam to lay flat on his back. Next thing the younger Winchester knew, his jeans were being unbuttoned and pulled down his legs, but Gabriel left Sam’s boxers on. The younger Winchester took care of his own t-shirt while Gabriel stripped down to his bright orange briefs.

 

“You sure you’re okay with this, Sammy?” the blond asked, earning himself an impatient grunt from his lover.

 

“Yes! Just… be gentle.”

 

Gabriel locked their lips once again, his hand lazily massaging Sam’s growing erection through the fabric of his underwear. The taller man mewled appreciatively under Gabriel’s ministrations. He felt impossibly close to orgasming already, but he focused to delay his release for as long as he could. Gabriel let his body slide off the bed so he was kneeling on the floor, which allowed him to look straight at Sam sprawled on the bed. His nimble fingers got rid of Sam’s boxers quickly before wrapping themselves around the engorged shaft. Gabriel leaned forward and teased the tip of Sam’s cock with his tongue, collecting the drops of pre-cum that had accumulated. The taller man moaned wantonly as he buried his hand in Gabriel’s wavy hair. Gabriel spent some time working his magic on Sam’s shaft, edging his lover closer and closer.

 

“Gabe I’m… so close…”

 

Upon hearing these words, Gabriel pulled back entirely, leaving Sam whimpering for more. The blond shuffled to his night stand and fished a bottle of lube from his drawer, popping the lid open and pouring a generous amount into the palm of his hand. Gabriel then knelt back onto the mattress and rubbed his hands together to warm the lube. Next thing Sam knew, his dick was being coated with the lube. His shaft twitched in anticipation.

 

“I’m gonna ride your dick so good, you’ll forget your own name.” The promise made Sam tremble with excitement. Gabriel proceeded to take off his briefs and throw them across the room before straddling Sam’s naked crotch. The blond undulated his hips seductively, locking eyes with his lover.

 

“Please Gabe… please, hurry.”

 

Gabriel raised his hips enough so he could gently grab Sam’s dick and position it at his entrance. The blond slowly lowered himself so that Sam’s tip pressed against his opening. The sensation was enough to send the younger Winchester over the edge, but he focused a little harder on keeping his orgasm at bay. The slickness of Sam’s dick helped Gabriel slide down further and further, although the taller man noticed the way his lover’s features tensed as he was taking in all of Sam.

 

“You alright?” Sam asked, worry evident in his voice.

 

“Yeah, Samshine, don’t worry about me…”

 

Gabriel paused halfway down, clearly making a conscious effort to relax judging by his controlled breathing. Sam tried not to move too much so Gabriel could get used to the invading presence. Slowly, but surely, the blond lowered himself completely on Sam’s shaft, pausing again when his butt cheeks met his lover’s thighs. Sam’s hands sought Gabriel’s, intertwining their fingers lovingly. Golden eyes met hazel, and in that instant, both lovers forgot about the world around them. Gabriel managed to relax enough that he felt confident moving his hips back and forth, gently rocking out the burning sensation. Sam let out moans of pleasure at the feeling of Gabriel’s tight hole squeezing his engorged cock.

 

“Fuck… you feel so good,” Sam complimented, sounding short of breath.

 

“You’re… you’re not so bad… yourself,” Gabriel replied, pinching his eyes shut when a particularly sharp pain shot through him. However, he did not stop moving. Suddenly, Gabriel’s features softened when Sam’s cock hit his sweet spot, a guttural growl pushing past his lips. “Fuck, that’s it baby… right there.”

 

“I’m not gonna last much longer”, Sam warned.

 

“Right there with ya’.”

 

Gabriel untangled their fingers and rested his hands flat on Sam’s chest, giving him the support he needed to move up and down his lover’s cock. The stimulation was too intense for Sam, who came shortly after Gabriel started moving in earnest. Judging by how erratic Gabriel’s movements were becoming, his lover was not far behind him. The blond pumped his dick until he was shooting white streaks of cum all over Sam’s naked chest.

 

“Fuuuuuuck…”

 

The two men basked in the afterglow of their love-making, catching their breaths as they both recovered from their orgasms. Gabriel gently moved off Sam’s dick and dropped limply next to his lover, cuddling up to the younger Winchester’s warm body. Sam mustered enough strength to turn his head and place a tender kiss on Gabriel’s forehead.

 

“That was… mind-blowing.”

 

“Wow… never had anyone tell me that before,” Gabriel joked, absent-mindedly drawing invisible arabesques on Sam’s chest.

 

“Well I’m telling you now. I wouldn’t mind doing that again,” Sam whispered tiredly, barely managing to stifle a yawn. Gabriel chuckled at the sight.

 

“Let’s have a nap, then we can talk about round 2.”

 

“I sure like the sound of that,” Sam said with a wicked grin. The two settled under the covers, and it was not long before they both succumbed to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen

 

 

Thanksgiving was fast-approaching, and so were some of Sam’s deadlines. Essays and exam revision kept the younger Winchester busy for most of the month of November, which meant that he did not see Gabriel as much as he would have liked to. The other man did not mind so much; he kept himself busy with work. On the odd occasion, Sam would spot Gabriel on campus and take some time to greet his boyfriend with a kiss. The warm smile these public displays of affection triggered in the janitor was worth the pent-up frustrations that came with not being able to see each other.

 

That Monday, Sam had handed in his last essay before the start of the law school examination period. Normally, the younger Winchester would have spent the remaining of the day studying, but instead he had decided to spend the night at Gabriel’s. Mrs McCarthy knew Sam was seeing someone, however he had not told her who it was, unsure of how his elderly cohabitee felt about homosexual relationships. He would tell her eventually, but Sam wanted to wait until time was right. Thankfully, Mrs McCarthy understood and did not pry. Which made things a lot easier for Sam. He hated the idea of having to lie to the woman who had so graciously taken him in and cared for him since the start of his studies.

 

Sitting on a bench outside the law school, Sam enjoyed the last rays of the evening sun on his bare arms as he waited for Gabriel to finish his shift and show up. The plan was to spend the evening in San José, where both could enjoy some quality time together without being disturbed. Sam could not wait; it felt like years since he had last seen Gabriel, although it had probably been only a week and a half ago. Sam felt his heart tighten at the thought. He felt like a dick for not spending more time with Gabriel when he knew that the other man was going through a tough time with his family. The fact that the janitor had picked up more hours was an indicator that he wanted to keep himself busy. Sam understood that; when things got hard for him, he sought distractions to avoid overthinking the situation, too. Damn, he probably should have tried harder to be there for Gabriel, because had their positions been reversed, Sam was convinced that the blond would have moved mountains to make sure Sam was not alone.

 

Sam felt like the worst boyfriend in the world.

 

“They say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. Well, apparently, no one has ever been standing next to you,” a familiar voice greeted Sam, causing a cheesy grin to appear on his pensive face, all his worries fading away at the sight of his boyfriend.

 

“Wow, could you get any cheesier?” the taller man asked rhetorically as he stood up to steal a furtive kiss from Gabriel.

 

“Is that a challenge?” Gabriel raised both his eyebrows, “Because I sure as hell can get cheesier. Is there an airport nearby, or is it just my heart taking off? Would you grab my arm, so I can tell my friends I’ve been touched by an angel? Hi, how was heaven when you left it?”

 

“Okay, okay… you made your point,” said Sam in an amused tone. Gabriel’s shit-eating grin was good to see. It made Sam feel better about not being around that much lately. Gabriel seemed fine. He seemed his usual cheery self. Then again, Sam knew better than to trust appearances. He had learned that Gabriel was just as good at hiding what he was feeling as Dean was.

 

“So, should we get going?” Gabriel asked while intertwining his fingers with Sam’s. The taller man merely nodded and the two of them started walking towards the staff parking lot where Gabriel kept his pick-up. “How’ve things been then, babe?”

 

“Busy. I finished all my coursework, now I can focus on revising for exams. Mrs McCarthy said she’s planning to cook a proper Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, so I guess that’s something to look forward to.”

 

At the mention of the holiday, Sam felt Gabriel tense up. It was almost as if all the happiness had been drained from the other man’s body judging by the way his features hardened. Sam could have kicked himself. Why did he bring up Thanksgiving when Gabriel had no family to spend it with this year?

 

“I’m sorry, I…”

 

“I’m fine, Sam,” Gabriel snapped, although he seemed to instantly regret his actions. He shot Sam an apologetic look and squeezed the taller man’s hand in a silent reassurance that he had not meant to sound so harsh.

 

“You’re clearly not, though. This reaction is not like you,” Sam told his boyfriend calmly, noticing how Gabriel’s shoulders sunk as he exhaled loudly.

 

“Look babe, you shouldn’t have to worry about me. I’m a big boy. I’ll pick up a shift that day, it’ll keep me busy…”

 

“What? No Gabe, I… I won’t let you be on your own at Thanksgiving,” Sam told the other man, leaving no room for argument.

 

“Sam…”

 

“I won’t, okay? We never celebrated Thanksgiving when Dean and I were kids. This year will be the first since Jess and I dated in high school… and I would love to celebrate it with you, too.”

 

Gabriel stopped dead in his tracks and stared at Sam in disbelief, almost as if he had misheard the words that had come out of his boyfriend’s mouth. The taller man merely placed the softest kiss on Gabriel’s lips, earning himself a content moan.

 

“I didn’t know, Sam. I’m sorry.”

 

“You couldn’t have known, don’t worry about it. So, what do you say? I’ll ask Mrs McCarthy if I can bring someone over? She’s been dying to meet you… and what better time than on Thanksgiving?” Sam said, hoping to lighten the mood somewhat. He could not deny the gnawing feeling in his stomach at the thought of introducing Gabriel as his boyfriend to the elderly woman, but he refused to let the other man spend the holiday alone. Plus, it was about time that he stopped hiding this wonderful human being from everyone. People should know how happy Sam was with Gabriel.

 

“I don’t want to impose myself, Sam…”

 

“Just let me ask, at least? Please?”

 

Sam made sure to put on his best beaten-puppy face, which he knew for a fact Gabriel would never be able to resist. The shorter man rolled his eyes at the sight, avoiding looking directly at his giant boyfriend for another second.

 

“Very mature, Sam!”

 

“Please, please, please, please?” Sam whined like a puppy for emphasis, earning himself a laugh from the other man.

 

“You’re terrible, you know that? Okay fine! You’ve convinced me.”

 

No words could accurately describe the utter glee Sam felt at Gabriel’s words. He managed to steal one last kiss as Gabriel fiddled in his pockets for his car key. This Thanksgiving was going to be memorable.

 

OoO

 

Boy, was Sam right about this Thanksgiving being memorable!

 

In fact, it almost went down as the most awkward holiday in the history of holidays.

 

It had all started when Sam had come home from Stanford on Wednesday evening only to find the Impala parked outside the flat complex where he and Mrs McCarthy lived. Instantly, Sam had felt dread and excitement at the prospect of having Dean and Bobby over for Thanksgiving. Gabriel did not know of this, obviously, since Sam never knew about it until then. Which meant that Gabriel would officially be introduced to everyone as Sam’s boyfriend. What if the other man was not okay with that? What if Dean and Bobby tried to interrogate him like some kind of criminal? Oh God, what if one of them had let their relationship slip to Mrs McCarthy already?

 

Sam had walked into the flat with a knot in his stomach.

 

It turned out that everything was fine, Mrs McCarthy was seemingly still unaware of who Sam was dating, and Dean and Bobby wanted to take Sam out for dinner to spend some quality family time. The younger Winchester had almost visibly deflated with relief. After Dean and Bobby had dropped him off at Mrs McCarthy’s for the night, the internal debate with himself began. Should he tell Gabriel just in case his boyfriend was not ready to be introduced to the family yet? Or should he just act like it was not a big deal? It was for Sam, though. He did not think that he could pretend it was not. He was literally buzzing with anxiety.

 

That’s it, I’m calling Gabriel, Sam thought to himself as he dialled the other man’s number.

 

“Samalam, relax! I would love to be introduced to your family.”

 

“You really mean that?”

 

“Of course, why wouldn’t I?”

 

“I… I thought you might want to wait…”

 

“That’s your problem, Sam. You worry too much. The again, it’s also what I love about you.”

 

Sam’s heart skipped a beat at the ‘l’-word. True, Gabriel had not outright said the three magic words, but he did say that he loved something about Sam. Not just liked, but loved. Suddenly, Sam remembered how it had felt like falling in love with Jess. He had fallen easily, but he had been scared all the way through.

 

“Samshine? You still there?”

 

“Yeah. Gabe, it’s just… I… I think I love you…”

 

There was a pause at the other line that sent Sam’s heartrate shooting up. Oh God, oh God, oh God, he had said the wrong thing. Gabriel did not love him yet, it was too early. Shit, shit, shit, shit. Sam should probably apologise, he should probably…

 

“I think I love you, too, Samsquatch.”

 

Oh.

 

Well damn, if those were not the best three words in the whole wide world!

 

OoO

 

Sam picked Gabriel up from San José, because he felt like it was his turn to be the designated driver so the blond could enjoy a drink on Thanksgiving. Gabriel had asked to take Loki with him, since he did not want to leave him on his own for the whole day. No one at Mrs McCarthy’s had minded, which Sam was really glad about. The blond was dressed simply: blue jeans and a white long-sleeved dress-shirt. His hair was slicked back, and he was clean-shaven, which Sam thought was ridiculously attractive. It was clear from the outfit that Gabriel was not trying to impress anyone: he was being himself, and the thought was comforting.

 

Sam and Gabriel reached Palo Alto at eleven a.m., just in time to start cooking the side dishes. Mrs McCarthy had found the ideal aide in Dean, who happily let the elderly woman mother him and teach him all about how to properly stuff a turkey. Bobby would most likely be standing awkwardly in a corner, watching Dean and Mrs McCarthy do their thing. Sam sighed as he parked the car. Loki was leaning with his front paws against the window, looking outside curiously as his tail wagged happily at the prospect of discovering some place new. Gabriel patted the dog’s head reassuringly before resting his eyes on Sam.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

“I’m worried…,” Sam admitted, knowing there was no point in lying to the other man. Gabriel raised an eyebrow at this.

 

“Worried?”

 

“Yeah. I mean, what if my family doesn’t like you, or… you don’t like them?”

 

Realization dawned on Gabriel at Sam’s words, an amused smile tugging at the corner of the shorter man’s lips.

 

“Sam… I can’t please everyone, and I’ve come to terms with that. However, Dean and Bobby raised you, and they can’t be that terrible if they raised a beautiful human being like you,” Gabriel assured the younger Winchester, reaching out to squeeze Sam’s hand. The gesture made everything better somehow. With a comforted smile, Sam stepped out of the car and helped Gabriel with Loki. Once they were inside the building, Sam let the puppy down. Loki followed Gabriel like a shadow, clearly slightly uncomfortable in the unfamiliar environment. The two men reached the second floor and Sam only briefly hesitated outside the door. Gabriel’s hand on the small of his back gave him courage, and with a last composing breath, he opened the door.

 

“We’re here,” Sam announced themselves. Loki dashed inside, sniffing everything in his path. Bobby was sitting at the table, whistling the little dog to him.

 

“Watcha doin’, boy? Whatcha lookin’ for?” he asked the dog, although he knew he would not get an answer. Loki merely trotted up to Bobby, scratching his leg demandingly. Gabriel snorted behind Sam, which caused the taller man to shoot him a questioning look.

 

“He always acts like I neglect him at home.”

 

“Well one thing’s for sure, he certainly ain’t underfed,” Bobby commented. Sam smiled fondly at his grinning boyfriend.

 

“Found him in the streets in really bad shape, just thought I’d give him the best life after that.”

 

Sam had never heard the story of how Gabriel got Loki, but knowing that the blond had taken a stray dog in made Sam’s heart swell with adoration for his boyfriend. Damn, was it possible to love someone that much? Sam’s musing was interrupted by Mrs McCarthy coming through to the living room.

 

“Oh Sam, here you are. And if that isn’t Gabriel,” the elderly woman shuffled in Gabriel’s direction, cupping his face in her bony hands and pinching both his cheeks in proper grandmotherly fashion, “I had a funny feeling Sam was gonna come back with you on his arm.”

 

“You… what?” Sam asked, still too shocked about Mrs McCarthy’s reaction to function properly.

 

“Oh darling, you can’t fool an old hag like me. I knew there was something different about him from the start.”

 

Sam did not know what to say, and Gabriel’s shit-eating grin earned the blond a signature bitch face from Sam. To make the situation even worse than it already was for the younger Winchester, Dean chose this exact moment to come in with a clever remark.

 

“I hope Fido here didn’t pee in my car, or we’ll be roasting a Jack Russel for Thanksgiving.”

 

“Hi name’s Loki, Dean,” Sam interjected, sounding slightly irritated, “and don’t worry, your precious baby is fine.”

 

“Also, you wouldn’t want to roast him, there’s more fat than meat on him,” Gabriel commented, picking his dog up and scratching the back of its ears affectionately. “Plus, I can’t even give him a bath without him whining the place down… I’d love to see you stuff him into an oven.”

 

It turned out that Sam had been worrying for nothing. Dinner was perfect, everyone got along, and Sam would forever remember this day fondly. Gabriel was great company, and Loki got a lifetime worth of cuddles. Everyone left Mrs McCarthy’s well-fed, content and ready to burst from all the food they had consumed. Sam felt like the happiest man in the world as he drove back to San José, occasionally glancing at a slightly tipsy Gabriel booping Loki’s nose.

 

“Thanks for today, Sam. I would have hated being alone on Thanksgiving,” Gabriel admitted. Sam’s heart broke ever so slightly at these words.

 

“Bobby always says that family don’t end in blood. Everyone loved you today. You’re part of the family now.”

 

Gabriel’s smile was like a ray of sunshine on a rainy day. Sam was going to make it his goal to see this expression of sheer happiness as often as he could. He would do all in his power so Gabriel would never feel sad again. Because, after all, that’s what you did for the people you loved.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen

 

 

5 years later

 

Mrs McCarthy died on April 2nd, 2011. Her funeral was held two days later.

 

Cancer. It sucked! Sam remembered that fateful day two years ago when Mrs McCarthy told him that she had been diagnosed with a mesenchymal tumor in her stomach. Treatable, but the doctors had warned her that chemotherapy would be painful. After a year which yielded no positive results, Mrs McCarthy had decided to let herself die. She told Sam that if she was to die within the next months, she would rather live her life to the fullest and not worry about chemo. At my age, Samuel, you don’t have the strength to fight against God’s will anymore. It took cancer a whole year almost to kill Mrs McCarthy; obviously, she would never have left this world without a fight.

 

Sam looked around the mostly empty church. A total of five people came to the funeral. Sam and Gabriel, of course, then Dean, who had insisted to pay his respects to the woman who had taken care of his baby brother while he was at Stanford, and two of Mrs McCarthy’s elderly friends from church. That was it. Her family had not even bothered to show up. Sam knew they were estranged, but this woman had been a mother, a grandmother even, and her own family did not value this in the slightest. Sam felt his blood boil at the thought, but the feeling was quickly replaced by a crushing sadness. This woman died pretty much alone. Had it not been for Sam, Mrs McCarthy would probably not even have had a funeral at all. How was that fair?

 

“The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God, no torment shall ever touch them.  In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die, their going looked like a disaster their leaving us, like annihilation; but they are in peace.”

 

The priest paused, granting the people gathered a minute to remember the lost soul they were honouring on this day. Sam was glad that Gabriel had managed to come to the funeral as a moral support. Gabriel was probably the only reason why Sam had managed to keep it together as the priest recited the sermon he had prepared for that day. The younger Winchester had requested that they played Amazing Grace at the end of the mass, because he knew how much Mrs McCarthy enjoyed that song while she was alive. It was the least he could do to honor her memory. The bare minimum. Perhaps he could have made an effort to visit her more this past year, but things had been hectic for Sam. He had started a new job at a small, but booming law firm in the Napa Valley a year ago, which had worked fantastically well with Gabriel being accepted at the Culinary Institute of America at around the same time. The couple had therefore decided to move in together and found an affordable place to live in Stockton, about an hour’s drive away from the Napa Valley and from Palo Alto. Sam had tried to meet up with Mrs McCarthy at least once a week on Sundays for their traditional Sunday dinner. Often, Gabriel would join them, and sometimes the blond would even go on his own when Sam could not make it. Neither of them wanted to see Mrs McCarthy lonely. Sam moving out had been hard on her. The younger Winchester was beginning to think that maybe he had not done enough to keep the elderly woman happy. He should have tried to visit her more. Now, it was too late. He had missed his chance at being a good human being.

 

“You’re thinking too loud again,” Gabriel whispered in his ear, startling the other man ever so slightly. Sam offered his lover an apologetic smile which did not quite reach his eyes. Gabriel would have undoubtedly noticed, but he did not comment on it. Instead, he intertwined his fingers with Sam’s long ones, squeezing the other man’s hand comfortingly. The priest chose that moment to play the song Sam had picked.

 

Amazing Grace,

How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found

Was blind, but now I see.

 

The lyrics echoed in the tall church building, and Sam was convinced that he even saw Dean wipe a tear. Sam, on the other hand, could not fight the stream of tears any longer. He managed to hold back the sobs that threatened to push past his lips, keeping most of his dignity intact in the process. A quick glance at Gabriel told Sam that the blond was struggling with his own emotions judging by the way his lips quivered dangerously.

 

“I’m fine,” Gabriel reassured Sam brokenly when he noticed the other man staring at him. However, the blond did not make eye-contact, and Sam knew that it was because Gabriel was easily triggered when he saw other people cry. The younger Winchester merely brushed his thumb over Gabriel’s knuckles. That was all they needed right now: reassurance that the other one was not going anywhere. Dean placed his hand on Sam’s shoulder, which was probably the furthest he was willing to go in publicly displaying his brotherly affections. Nonetheless, the younger Winchester shot his brother a teary smile. Dean did not return it.

 

Gabriel, Sam and Dean attended the brief graveside service. Sam knew that this was generally a matter reserved for the family of the deceased, but he was the only family Mrs McCarthy had left. Family don’t end in blood. She had taken care of him, fed him, given him a roof over his head… she had been part of his family. She should be honored accordingly. The funeral officiant recited a quick prayer before the casket was lowered into the ground. While Sam and Dean managed to keep the tears at bay, Gabriel had to excuse himself, the memory of his own parents’ funeral still too vivid in his mind. Sam did not try to go after him; he understood that the blond needed time to compose himself. He had been warned this might happen.

 

Dean had decided to stay in a motel for a couple of days to recuperate from his two-day drive before hitting the road again. Sam had suggested his brother stayed with him and Gabriel, but Dean had outright refused. The younger Winchester had not argued, knowing how stubborn his brother could be. After sharing a quick meal at a diner in Stockton, they had all gone their separate ways. The short drive back to their home sweet home was spent in silence, which was broken by Gabriel as soon as he parked his car in their drive way.

 

“How are you feeling?” he asked the younger Winchester, placing a warm hand on Sam’s thigh. The other man merely shrugged.

 

“Alright, I guess. Tired.”

 

“I thought you might be. Are you gonna go to work tomorrow?”

 

“I probably should,” Sam said with a heavy sigh. Gabriel raised an eyebrow at his lover’s reluctant response.

 

“Maybe you should rest. Since you’ve taken that job, you haven’t had a proper holiday anyway, and you’ve never been off sick. Your boss will understand…”

 

“Gabe, stop!” Sam snapped, noticing the way Gabriel jerked away from him at the unexpected sharpness of his lover’s tone, “I don’t want to stay at home and brood all day. She’s dead! She’s never coming back, and the sooner I accept this, the better for me.”

 

Sam unbuckled his seatbelt and stormed out of the car, slamming the door shut in the process. He could not hear Gabriel following him yet, but in that instant, it did not matter. Why did his lover not understand that work would be a distraction from Mrs McCarthy’s death? It was hard enough as it was, especially when the guilt of not visiting her as much as he should have was gnawing at him more and more with each passing hour. Sam pulled his keys out of his pockets and fiddle with the lock on the door briefly before finally losing his patience.

 

“Gabe, can you help me unlock the door?” When no answer came, Sam turned around to check what was taking his lover so long. His heart dropped in his chest when he noticed that Gabriel was still sitting in the car. Only then did it Sam realise that he must have sounded unnecessarily harsh. Determined to make things right, he walked back to the car and opened Gabriel’s door.

 

“Babe, I’m so sorry…”, he started apologising, but the blond’s glare shut him up.

 

“I know you’re hurting, Sam”, Gabriel said in a dangerously calm voice, “and I understand that you want the pain you’re feeling to go away, but I will not let you reduce this good woman to this. Yes, she is dead! No, she is never coming back. But God dammit, she deserves to be remembered!”

 

Sam stepped away from the car when Gabriel stepped out and slammed the door with more force than Sam had ever witnessed him use.

 

“And more importantly, I will not let you turn into Michael! I will not have you turn into this miserable human being, who rejects his grief and pretends that everything around him is fine, when in fact he’s broken and sad, but too proud to admit it. Because if I allow you to turn into that kind of man, you will take your frustrations out on me, and I won’t let that happen to me ever again. Alright? And I don’t want to lose you, Sam. I really don’t… but I won’t stand for this attitude.”

 

The younger Winchester’s heart broke when he saw Gabriel tear up as he spoke those last words. In the nearly six years they had known each other, Sam had never seen Gabriel so upset. College stress and not seeing his lover as much as he would like to because of Sam’s new job was probably adding to the grief Gabriel was feeling in that instant. The younger Winchester sighed, his stoic expression softening as he went to pull his lover in a tight embrace. Gabriel clung onto him with the urgency of a drowning man, and had it not been for Sam supporting them both, he was convinced that Gabriel’s knees would have given in beneath him and brought the man to the ground. His lover’s broken sobs were muffled by Sam’s suit jacket, but they hurt the younger Winchester just as much.

 

“I’m so sorry, Gabe. It’s just… I don’t know how to show my feelings…”

 

“Yes, you do,” Gabriel accused weakly, “I saw you cry in church.” The blond pulled away enough so he could stare into Sam’s hazel eyes. “You know, there’s nothing wrong with crying. It’s not unmanly, it’s human. And I didn’t think that you’d ever feel the need to lie to me about how you’re feeling. It’s me, Sam. You don’t have to be scared of me.”

 

“I know…,” Sam finally whispered, “I know… I just wanted to be strong…”

 

“You don’t have to be strong, Sam. Neither of us has to be tonight. Or tomorrow. We will heal, and it will take time, but tonight we’re allowed to grieve. Take the day off tomorrow, I only have class until 12. Then we’ll go for a long walk with Loki.”

 

Sam managed a genuine smile, nodding his approval at Gabriel’s idea.

 

“I’d love that.” Those few words instantly seemed to brighten Gabriel’s features. The two hugged one last time before Sam wrapped his arm lovingly around his lover’s waist and guided them to the front door. “I’ll call my boss and let him know.”

 

“Awesome.”

 

The pair was greeted by an excited Loki, who waddled in their direction wagging his tail furiously. The now elderly dog panted as he reached Gabriel’s feet, greeting the blond with a weak lick. The smaller man picked up the dog and kissed his head loudly. Sam could not help but smile at the sight. Ever since Loki had started to get older and moving was becoming difficult, Gabriel had downright spoilt the Jack Russel to the point where Sam was convinced Loki was faking some of it.

 

“I’ll quickly let him out in the garden,” Gabriel announced. Sam merely hummed his approval as he dialled his boss, knowing that he would still be in his office at 7pm.

 

“How’s my wonder boy?” Bartholomew, greeted him on the phone, his voice far too cheery for Sam’s liking.

 

“I’m alright thanks, what about yourself?”

 

“I could not be better. I was actually just about to call you. You don’t have to bother coming in tomorrow.”

 

Sam’s stomach dropped at his boss’ words. Was he actually being fired? Had this one day off because he was attending a funeral cost him his job? No, this could not be happening, not with Gabriel going back to school and them having to pay for their mortgage on the house. Sam needed this job.

 

“What?”

 

“I want you to rest up tomorrow. I’ll need you bright and alert on Wednesday morning, 7am sharp. We’ve landed a new case that will turn your whole career upside down if you play your hands right. Not exactly your area of expertise, but I’m sure you’ll do great anyway.”

 

Sam was not entirely sure how he had not fainted with relief yet as his anxiety was quickly replaced with excitement. When Gabriel reappeared again, he shot Sam a questioning look. The younger Winchester walked closer to his lover so the blond could overhear the conversation he was having with his boss.

 

“That’s great news, boss. What’s the case?”

 

“A high-ranking army officer was found dead in his house in San Francisco two nights ago. His daughter heard gunshots and came running down the stairs and found her father dead on the floor, a bullet through his head, and a man standing over him holding a gun in his hand. This man, our client, was arrested and is the prime suspect, but Zachariah tells me he claims to be innocent, but won’t give up any information on what happened that night. I’m counting on you to do a better job at getting his story on Wednesday.”

 

Gabriel and Sam shot each other incredulous looks, but while the blond was merely shocked, Sam was starting to feel nervous. This case was not only going to determine how good a lawyer he would be, but it might also land him a well-earned and much needed promotion.

 

“Alright boss, I’ll be ready Wednesday morning.”

 

“Brilliant. The suspect is being detained at San Francisco County Jail, that’s where you’ll have to go. They’re expecting you, but make sure you don’t have anything on you that could be considered a weapon. I’m counting on you to work at the best of your abilities and get back that guy’s story.”

 

“Absolutely, sir,” Sam said in a determined voice.

 

“Splendid. Now, what was it you were calling me for?”

 

“Oh uh… nothing sir, it wasn’t important. I’ll see you on Wednesday.”

 

“See you Wednesday, Winchester.”

 

OoO

 

“We just want you to know, Mr Winchester, this man is potentially very dangerous. It would be best if a guard stayed in the questioning room with you while you interrogate your client,” the officer told Sam, who merely shook his head and smiled a professionally as he could.

 

“I will not be interrogating my client. I’m not a police officer. Also, our conversation needs to be confidential. I will call out if I need any help, but I refuse to have an officer stand in the same room as us.”

 

The officer eyed Sam suspiciously, clearly not appreciating being told off by a lawyer. Sam did not really care what the other man thought of him. In order to gain his client’s trust, they needed to work in an entirely confidential environment, especially if it turned out that the client was guilty.

 

“Suit yourself,” the officer finally relented, shrugging his shoulders as if the idea of Sam getting attacked stopped being his problem the minute the lawyer refused the presence of an officer in the questioning room. The two men reached a huge steel door, which opened automatically when the large man placed his hand on a biometric scanner. Sam heard the officer shout at his colleague to leave the room before the beast of a man addressed the younger Winchester again.

 

“Good luck. He’s not very cooperative.”

 

“Thank you, officer,” Sam said before entering the room and taking in his surroundings. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling, not providing much light, but enough to make out a man sitting at the table, his head bowed so Sam could not make out his face. The booming voice of the officer next to him startle the young man ever so slightly.

 

“Shurley, your lawyer’s here!”

 

Shurley? What? Sam faintly heard the steel door behind him shut as his client raised his head and stared straight at the taller man standing awkwardly in the doorway. Piercing green-blueish eyes widened as the prisoner recognised his counsel.

 

“You…?”

 

“Michael? What the hell are you doing here?”

Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen

 

 

“Michael? What the hell are you doing here?”

 

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Sam knew that his reaction was below unprofessional. Noticing Michael’s raised eyebrow, his client was probably thinking the same thing, although he refrained from voicing his thoughts out loud. Sam cleared his throat as if that action alone would somehow make up for his messed up first impression. This was a terrific start to the case.

 

“I mean… Mr Shurley, uh… good morning, I’m Sam Winchester, and I will be your…”

 

“I don’t want your help!” Michael snapped before Sam had a chance to finish introducing himself properly, “I already have a lawyer…”

 

“I am aware that Zachariah Smith was appointed to your case. We work for the same law firm, and I am going to assist Mr Smith on this case.” Judging by the way Michael’s nose scrunched up in distaste, the man was less than pleased about that arrangement. Sam felt like sighing; this was going to be very difficult, indeed.

 

“Is that even allowed? You’re involved with my brother. There has to be a conflict of interest somewhere?”

 

“Yeah, about that,” Sam started, taking a seat so he was at the same level as his client, “yes, it does. However, it is my decision whether I still wish to undertake the representation despite this existing conflict of interest. In this case, I would need to inform my client and get their consent in writing before beginning the process of representation.”

 

“Well, you won’t get that consent. Sorry for wasting your time.” The way those words were spoken told Sam that regret was probably the last emotion on Michael’s mind in that very instant.

 

“I understand your reluctance, but I’m gonna try to change your mind. Will you allow me twenty minutes? If I can’t convince you in that time, I promise I’ll leave you alone and make sure not to be involved with your case at all…”

 

Sam noticed Michael tense ever so slightly at this suggestion, however the fact that the other man did not outright refuse was a win in Sam’s book. Michael eyed him suspiciously, his gaze intense enough to make anyone want to look away and cower silently as they felt the weight of this man’s eyes on them. But not Sam. Sam had become immune to that kind of glare from a very young age, thanks to his own father. Michael did not intimidate him, and it was perhaps the way Sam held his gaze that coaxed the words that followed out of the other man’s mouth.

 

“Ten minutes,” was all Michael said before leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms before his chest defiantly. Sam pulled a notepad, pen and case notes out of his briefcase.

 

“So, Mr Shurley, what happened the night Colonel Meyers died?” Sam’s first question already seemed to intrigue Michael judging by the way his eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Something the matter?”

 

“It’s just… I didn’t expect that question,” Michael admitted, which only served to confuse Sam.

 

“What kind of question did you expect?” he asked with a frown. Michael’s gaze hardened as he considered his next move.

 

“Can I ask you a question, Mr Winchester?”

 

“Uh…,” Sam was unsure how to take this sudden change of conversation, but he decided to go with it, “sure, go on.”

 

“Do you think I did it? Do you think I killed Colonel Meyers?”

 

“I give all my clients the benefit of the doubt,” Sam shot back without hesitation, “after all, that’s what the presumption of innocence is for”

 

“That doesn’t answer my question,” Michael insisted, “that merely shows me that you act the way the law requires you to. I want to know if you genuinely think I’m innocent?”

 

Sam was unsure how to respond. The most natural answer would have been that he was lacking a lot of information which Michael had outright refused to provide which would allow Sam to make an objective judgement, but he had a feeling that Michael would take this the wrong way. Sam knew he had to tread carefully if he wanted to gain the other man’s trust. And time was of the essence.

 

“Honestly? I don’t know what to think yet. All I know so far is that the Colonel is dead and his daughter found you standing over him, holding a gun in your hand. I’m interested in your version of the events, if you’re ready to share them?”

 

“I didn’t do it.”

 

“Then what happened?” Sam urged gently, trying to keep his voice calm and composed. Michael stiffened considerably at the question.

 

“I wouldn’t speak to your colleague. What makes you think I’ll speak to you?”

 

“I’m hoping that you’ll come to realise that you’ve got very little options to your disposition, Mr Shurley. Either you learn to trust your counsel, or my suggestion is that you become best buddies with your cellmate, because perpetuity is a long time to be sharing a room with someone you don’t like.”

 

Michael’s eyebrows furrowed at Sam’s words, which the younger Winchester saw as a win. Sam sensed that he had managed to dig the tiniest of holes in the brick wall Michael was putting up, yet still big enough to spread doubt in the suspect’s mind.

 

“Additionally, the media hasn’t made a big deal out of this yet, mostly because not much is known about your case yet. But it’s only a matter of time before journalists start following me around asking questions. I would love to tell them with all my heart that I’m convinced of your innocence. For that, you’ll have to cooperate. You claim that you didn’t do it, then there must be a rational explanation for why you’re sitting here, doing your best to not answer any of my questions?”

 

Michael stared at Sam for a while, his thoughts clearly racing at one hundred miles an hour. Even though the younger Winchester did not have that much experience as a lawyer yet – which effectively meant that he had not had to deal with very difficult clients that much in his short career – Sam could tell that Michael was strongly considering telling his lawyer the truth. Something was holding him back, and the younger Winchester could not tell if this reluctance stemmed from fear, embarrassment or genuine mistrust, but he made an educated guess that it was most likely a mixture of all three.

 

“There is a logical explanation, Mr Winchester, but… I’m afraid I don’t feel comfortable sharing any of this with someone who works for the same agency as Zachariah Smith,” Michael admitted, almost making Sam smile victoriously. The problem was not entirely Sam. He could work with that. “Also,” Michael added after some thought, “I don’t want Gabriel to know about any of this. He’s… he’s suffered enough because of me.”

 

Sam thought he could hear remorse in Michael’s tone, but he willed those thoughts away. He was not here as Gabriel’s boyfriend, but as Michael’s lawyer. If he was going to gain his client’s trust, he had to show a high level of professionalism.

 

“Like I’ve explained earlier, this is your call. If you agree to me representing you, you can rest assured that I will not breach my confidentiality promise to anyone.”

 

“It will take more than your word to convince me, Mr Winchester. I appreciate your determination, but this is a lost case. Believe me, even if I could afford the best representation in the country, there’s no way I would win this battle. The military, their influence… they’re too powerful, and I barely stand a chance in a court of law.”

 

“With that attitude you certainly don’t,” Sam agreed bitterly, “Mr Shurley, I can’t force you to tell me what happened that night. But at the same time, unless I have your version of the events, I’m unable to do my job properly. If that’s the case, I’d rather you tell me now so we can both save ourselves time.”

 

Michael stiffened at Sam’s words, but did not appear willing to give his counsel a clear answer. Sighing heavily, the younger Winchester started putting away his paperwork before pushing his chair back with a loud scraping noise and rising to his full height.

 

“I wish you the best of luck with your case, Mr Shurley. If you change your mind, here is our office contact number. Official office hours are 8am to 5pm every Monday to Friday, but you’ll often be able to catch my superior after hours through the week.”

 

Sam handed Michael his visitation card and turned his back on him without another word, banging on the door with his fist to alert the guard that their meeting was over. Michael still did not speak, and Sam lost faith that he would. The metal doors slid open, and Sam stepped out without as much as a second glance back at Michael. The younger Winchester checked his phone as soon as he had exited the prison premises. His heart broke when he noticed the five missed calls and twelve unread messages Gabriel had left him. Sam had a sneaky feeling that the blond had found out about his brother’s arrest. The younger Winchester dialled his boyfriend, and he did not have to wait long before he heard Gabriel’s panicked and teary voice on the other line.

 

 

 

OoO

 

“What do you mean he wouldn’t talk?” Gabriel asked, incredulity lacing his tone, “Why would he not talk?”

 

“Perhaps it’s for the best,” Sam mused out loud, “I’m not sure what this would’ve done to our relationship if he’d agreed to let me represent him. I mean, I would’ve had to keep you in the dark about everything.”

 

“Maybe you’re right,” Gabriel conceded, although the tone of his voice indicated something else that Sam could not quite decipher. “I just don’t understand, Michael would never kill anyone in cold blood. I know him, Sam. He’s my brother!”

 

“Babe, I know how you feel about this, but the jury will never accept this as an answer. Michael was in the army, he killed civilians in cold blood before…,” Sam tried to reason with his lover, but Gabriel’s glare told him that those had been the wrong words to use in the situation.

 

“He had orders to kill people who were a threat to our country, and often to the country our army was occupying. You cannot compare this to a cold-blooded murder of an officer. Apples and oranges!”

 

“To you and to me, yes they are. But Gabriel, I can’t think like you and me, I have to think like the jury. And any lawyer who represents your brother will have to do the same.”

 

Gabriel went silent, and Sam hoped that his lover realised the truth behind his words. The coffee in Sam’s cup was growing cold, but the younger Winchester could not bring himself to care. Gabriel was hurting, and it was natural that he would lash out. Despite not having had contact with Michael in five years, Sam knew that Gabriel missed his older brother dearly.

 

“Did you get a chance to speak to Cas or Luce?” Sam asked softly, changing the subject. Gabriel seemed to snap out of his daydreaming and sighed in resignation at his boyfriend’s question.

 

“Couldn’t get a hold of Luce, but I left a message on his voicemail. Cas, he… he sounded like his whole world had come crashing down around him. He already knew about it, he had read the newspaper the same morning. Sam, he asked me if I thought Michael was innocent, and I had no idea what to tell him. What kind of brother am I to doubt the moral integrity of my own sibling?”

 

“Hey, don’t bring yourself down like that,” Sam admonished gently, intertwining his fingers with Gabriel’s reassuringly. Although he wanted to pull the shorter man close to him, Sam could tell when the blond wanted to keep his distances, and tonight was one of those times. “The news came as a shock to you, it’s ok to have doubts.”

 

“Is it? Michael is in jail for murder, Sam! And he’s refusing to talk, even you have to admit that that’s pretty suspicious…” Tears were welling up in Gabriel’s eyes, but the younger Winchester merely tightened his grip around the blond’s hand.

 

“You would be surprised what reasons people have for not talking. Imagine being in his position. Talking to the man living with his brother whom he hasn’t seen in five years could not have been easy. And…,” Gabriel raised a questioning eyebrow when Sam paused, his eyes urging him to finish, “… look, I don’t think he did it either, ok? Don’t ask me how I know, because I don’t, but… it’s a gut feeling. What Michael needs right now are people who believe in him. If he has people believing that he didn’t do it, it might get him to talk. Maybe now is the time to make amends…”

 

“I… I don’t know, Sam,” came the uncertain reply.

 

“It’s your decision, baby. All I’m saying is that your brother needs all the support he can get right now.”

 

Gabriel shot Sam a loving, albeit teary smile. Against Sam’s expectations, the blond buried himself in the taller man’s embrace, sniffing pitifully against the material of his lover’s suit. Sam could feel Gabriel inhaling the smell of his cologne, a habit he had picked up since starting college. It seemed to appease him whenever he felt stressed, which was why Sam never truly minded. Tonight, he knew that Gabriel also needed all his support. The younger Winchester wrapped his arms protectively around his lover’s shorter frame, kissing the top of his head gently.

 

“I’m convinced there’s a reasonable explanation. We’ll get through this, baby. I promise.”

 

Gabriel did not reply, merely hugging Sam tighter and tensing up as he held back the sobs that once again threatened to push past his lips. The two men did not know how long they stood in their shared kitchen, simply holding each other and whispering sweet nothings to each other in a feeble attempt to seek comfort in these dark times. The comfortable silence that had settled was broken by Sam’s phone vibrating between their bodies. Gabriel pulled away reluctantly and wiped the rogue tears that had managed to roll down his cheeks despite his best efforts to hold them back. The younger Winchester frowned when he recognised the number.

 

“Sam Winchester speaking.”

 

“Ah, Sam the wonder boy,” a rich voice Sam recognised as Bartholomew’s greeted him, “how’s my little prodigy? No, no, don’t tell me, let me guess… thrilled. Exhilarated. Elated that you managed to steal Zachariah’s client right from under his nose.”

 

“Wait, what?” Sam asked, his voice barely concealing his surprise.

 

“You sound surprised? Michael Shurley called from San Fran jail, he said he wants you to represent him. He’s ready to give you his consent in writing. You never mentioned that you were seeing the younger Shurley brother.”

 

“With all due respect, sir, I never knew who I was going to be representing until I saw Michael Shurley’s face this morning.”

 

“Trivialities, really. All that matters is that he’s accepted you as his counsel. He wants to meet with you again as soon as possible, so is tomorrow good for you?” Sam paced nervously around the kitchen, his eyes falling on Gabriel’s frame in the adjacent living room. A soft smile spread across his features when he noticed his lover cuddling Loki close to him, placing affectionate kisses over the old dog’s head. He wished he could frame this precious moment. How would Gabriel react to Sam being Michael’s counsel? Would he be worried? Excited? Angry?

 

“Tomorrow works fine. However, sir, I do believe that Mr Shurley will be more cooperative if we met in my office. Is that something that can be arranged?”

 

“Son, in this line of work, anything can be arranged. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

“Goodnight, sir.”

 

Sam hung up and sighed heavily. He briefly wondered if he should let Gabriel in on this new arrangement. After all, his lover had the right to know.

 

“Is everything alright?” the blond asked, still holding Loki close to his chest.

 

“It was the office. Your brother… he accepted to let me represent him.”

 

Gabriel’s eyes went wide at the admission. His lover’s words rendered him momentarily speechless. His fingers absent-mindedly rubbed the back of Loki’s head, an action that Sam knew indicating how nervous Gabriel truly was.

 

“If you’re uncomfortable with this…”

 

“Do it,” was all Gabriel said, “please, Sam. I trust you. I trust you more than I’ll ever trust anyone else. And I promise that I won’t get in the way of your case.”

 

“Are you sure?” Gabriel hesitated, avoiding Sam’s gaze as he considered his options.

 

“I trust you, Sam,” the blond merely repeated. Sam knew he would not get more out of Gabriel that evening.

 

“Ok. In that case, let me give you one piece of advice.” Gabriel locked his eyes with Sam’s again, his eyebrows furrowed questioningly as he awaited his lover’s next words, “Go visit Michael as often as you can. He might feed you bits of information about our meetings, and that’s his right. But to avoid putting me in a compromising position, I think this is the best way to handle the situation.”

 

“Sam, I…”

 

“Gabriel, I won’t be telling you anything about the case. So, unless you want to get all your information from the papers, I suggest you go speak to Michael. I can understand that it’ll hurt, but not knowing will hurt even more than facing your brother again. Please… just trust me on this one?”

 

Gabriel swallowed thickly as he took in Sam’s words. The younger Winchester hated the way his lover’s eyes glistened in the light. He hated seeing Gabriel cry, but this was the only way that they would be able to protect their relationship during Michael’s trial. Eventually, Gabriel’s barely audible answer reached Sam’s ears.

 

“Ok. I’ll do it.”