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For the Sake of an Angel

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"Oh, I'm not getting in that thing."

 

"Get in the car, princess."

 

Lightning crashed around Dean and Sam as they ran out of the Elysian Fields. Dean held onto Kali, pushing her into the backseat while she frowned over her shoulder. They sped away in the Impala, and Sam watched as the hotel grew smaller in the background.

 

"Do you think Gabriel -" Sam started, not continuing after Kali's loud scoff in the back seat. She looked pissed off and honestly terrifying - Sam tried to keep his eyes from straying to hers in the rear view mirror. Only a few minutes had passed before the rain started pouring down harder. Kali made a startled noise from the back; if Sam hadn't expected otherwise, he would have thought it sounded wounded.

 

There was a flash of light behind them in the car and Sam turned around. The smell of fire lingered behind, but Kali was nowhere to be found. "Dammit," he said, turning back around. Dean was driving ahead with a pinched look on his face, kind of like the one he'd had after Carthage. After Ellen and Jo.

 

No music was playing in the car. An uncomfortable silence lingered around them, broken by the rage of the storm. It had started back up when they pulled away from the parking lot, and thunder crashed unapologetically with the strike of lightning. It was almost dangerous, and Sam would have probably said something if the situation was any different. Because the angel who wanted to ride his ass was back at that hotel, probably pissed because Sam had escaped.

 

And another archangel was maybe, potentially, sort of giving them a chance. Actually, scratch that. Was most definitely giving them the best chance they had to run out of there. Sam turned back to the empty seat behind him and his eyes focused on the two vials of red. Their blood, the samples Kali used to keep them there, under her influence. The third wasn't there - Gabriel's - but Sam reached down to grab them anyway.

 

"Hey," he said, and Dean took his eyes off the road for a second to register what was laying in Sam's palm. His eyebrows drew together in concern, grabbing one of them and pushing the light on in the Impala. He examined it closely, before dropping it back into Sam's palm. The glass clinked together, and Dean turned the light off.

 

"That ours?" he grunted, eyes going back to the road and the cataclysmic downpour that still blew around them.

 

"Seems like," Sam said, slipping both vials carefully into his pocket. "Also - she still has Gabriel's." Dean didn't respond, but his fingers clenched a little bit tighter on the wheel. Sam didn't add anything, fingers resting on his knee. They drummed impatiently, and he stared out the window at the torrential rain.

 

They drove in silence for a little longer, and Sam kept thinking about Gabriel standing in front of Lucifer, that little look that he'd sent Sam. "Hey," he said suddenly, "where's that DVD that Gabriel gave you?" Dean fumbled around in his coat for a second before reaching down by his feet. He tossed the case to Sam,

who raised an eyebrow.

 

Casa Erotica? Really?

 

Granted, it was Gabriel, and if that stint playing characters had taught Sam anything it was that Gabriel loved his prime time television. So this wasn't all that out of the blue for him. Strange that he would ask Dean to protect it, though. Unless there was a message inside. Curious, Sam pulled out his laptop and set it up on his lap. Dean glanced over curiously, sending a confused look Sam's way.

 

"Far be it from me to judge, but is this really the best time to be watching porn?" Dean asked, and Sam glared at him. He shrugged, turning back to the wheel. "Fine, be weird, I don't care."

 

Sam pushed the disc in and ignored Dean's grumbling, turning the volume up so he could hear over the howl of the wind.

 

The classic wah-wah porno music started and Sam grimaced. If Gabriel had left them nothing but a porno, he was going to be so unbelievably pissed. Some random girl was laying in a bed, with almost no real clothes on and looking barely legal.

 

And then Gabriel came into the film. Sam turned away, half in disgust and half in embarrassment, as Gabriel made a lot of eerily fake noises that were pretty obviously for the discomfort of whoever was watching. Which meant Sam and Dean were the only ones he meant to watch this.

 

Sam decided to show it to Bobby first chance he got. The volume got louder and he went to close the laptop.

 

"Sam, Dean. Bet you're wondering what the hell is going on." Sam started at the voice, pulling the laptop back open. Dean seemed to have the same reaction; he almost swerved off the road and swore loudly.

 

Sam stared in surprise at Gabriel, looking directly into the camera. If he didn't know better he'd think it was a live video feed, and that he could actually talk to him.

 

"If you're watching this..." Gabriel took an almost dramatic pause before the slightest hint of resignation came over his features. Most people wouldn't notice, but Sam had spent a long 6 months hunting down that face. He noticed.

 

"I'm dead."

 

Another pause. Sam stopped the video. Dean wasn't moving again, jaw clenched tight. His knuckles were white against the steering wheel, and Sam could read the tension in the line of his shoulders.

 

"We have to go back," Sam said. Dean turned to look at him with disbelief in his eyes.

 

"Back. To the hotel. Where Lucifer is." Dean let out a little laugh, sarcastic and a little crazed. "Genius."

 

"No, Dean -" Sam broke off with a loud sigh, moving his computer off of his lap and turning slightly to better face his brother. "There's no way Lucifer is still there, and we need to see if Gabriel's really dead."

 

"Not a chance," Dean said, eyes not leaving the road again. Sam pressed his fingers into his temples.

 

"Dean, come on. Kali took Gabriel's blood, we have nothing to go on here. Humor me," Sam almost begged, trying to convince Dean to turn around. Instead, Dean pulled the car over to the shoulder and turned on the hazards.

 

"Sammy. We just escaped that hellhole. None of the pagans survived, except for Kali. Gabriel's probably dead, and he died helping us leave. Why would we go back?" Dean asked, frowning as he glared at Sam.

 

"Because maybe Gabriel isn't dead yet!" Sam huffed. "We might have a chance to save him!" He gave Dean a pleading look, convinced that Gabriel wouldn't be dead if they just went back as soon as possible. Dean stared at him for a moment more before he groaned, head falling back against the seat.

 

"Goddamn it," he growled, turning the Impala back on and pulling out into a slick U-turn. "If Lucifer is still there, I'm gonna kill you." His attempt at humor fell flat between them, but Sam was too busy anticipating what they were going to find to notice.

 

This might be the time they finally win one. Sam knew it was dangerous to have hope, but he couldn't stop from wondering if they would make it back in time.

 

But he knew how dangerous Lucifer could be, when given the opportunity. That was the only smear of despair in his mind as they got closer and closer to the hotel. Dean still wasn't speaking, but Sam could tell from the set of his jaw that he wasn't happy.

 

He could apologize later, after they found out for themselves what had happened to Gabriel.

 

--

 

The hotel's lights were all off when they pulled up to it. Whatever spell had been on it had worn off and it looked as decrepit as a building that had been abandoned for years on end. The letters were dangerously close to falling, and half of the roof looked like it had caved in. Sam wasn't sure if that was from before, or if it had come from something as powerful as an archangel.

 

The important part was that Lucifer wasn't there anymore. Sam just refrained from saying I told you so, figuring that it wasn't the best time to mess with Dean. He quickly grabbed Ruby's knife from the trunk while Dean took the Colt, grabbing an extra round of bullets just in case.

 

The air inside smelt like mold and decay, with a hint of electricity in the air. Sam wasn't sure if it was from the storm outside or the recent presence of gods, but something inside the building made his hair stand on end. Dean led the way in, motioning for Sam to follow when he made sure it was all clear. He gestured with his hand and Sam stepped out of the way of an overturned table. There were blood splats covering the wall, and Sam flinched away from it.

 

The hotel was absolutely silent, thick walls cutting out the sound from the storm outside. Sam crept forward carefully, sidestepping debris scattered on the floor. After what felt like an eternity, they finally made their way to the ballroom where everything has gone down. Dean was standing with his gun drawn, frowning at the doors. He nodded at Sam; together, they kicked the door open and held their weapons up. Nothing came rushing out at them, friend or foe.

 

They didn't lower their weapons one inch, instead creeping carefully inside. It was dark, and Sam could only just make out the shadow of the tables against the far wall. He swore quietly, wishing he'd brought a flashlight in. Some sort of chair was right in front of him, and he pushed it aside. There was something grainy on the chair, and he brought it to his nose to smell.

 

It smelled like ash. His nose wrinkled.

 

Lighting struck outside and illuminated the room for an unnaturally long time. It was just enough for Sam's eyes to become used to the flash and make out the shape of two bodies on the floor.

 

One was unmistakably Baldur, with a huge gash across his back that was still dripping blood.

 

The other - Sam refused to believe it, but he'd seen the flash of golden hair and the telltale curve of Gabriel's mouth. There was a quiet curse next to him, and then the sound of Dean looking for something.

 

A weak flashlight beam lit up the room, falling almost perfectly on Gabriel's face. Sam felt his stomach drop out as the air left his lungs in a disbelieving breath. Dean turned toward him and the ash on the chair became obvious.

 

"It's his wings," Sam choked out, pulling his hands away as if they'd been burned. "Oh my god..." He moved forward slowly, following Dean's flashlight as it moved along Gabriel's wings. Eventually it fell back on Gabriel's body and Sam felt a little weak.

 

There was a deep cut in the front of Gabriel's chest, made by nothing other than an angel blade. The blade itself lay next to Gabriel almost like a mockery of his failure, tip pointing toward his heart. There was blood on the end of the blade; it couldn't be anyone's but his own. Sam felt himself drop to his knees, leaning forward over Gabriel.

 

"I really thought we'd be in time," he muttered, eyes locked on the wound in Gabriel's chest. Dean came up behind him, a strong presence at his back. "I didn't think-" He found himself unable to finish, and stood back up, snagging the angel blade as he did. He wiped the blood off on a nearby tablecloth, feeling pinpricks of pressure behind his eyes. Dean didn't speak, but Sam caught the pained look in his eyes when his gaze fell on Gabriel once more. The angel blade fit snugly in his grip, and Sam tried not to think about its last act.

 

The front of his jeans was covered in ash; he ignored the bile in his throat when he wiped the ash off. The angel blade went in the back of his jeans, a not-so-uncomfortable weight resting against the small of his back.

 

"Hey." Dean's voice was gruff but still somewhat soft, and he reached out to grasp Sam's shoulder. "The guy died for our getaway. And he made the DVD beforehand - he must have known what he was getting into." He gave a humorless chuckle, looking down at Gabriel's blank face. "Hell, I gave him the pep talk to come in here and stand up to his brother anyway."

 

Sam didn't say anything. He put the knife away and pushed past Dean.

 

"It's just someone else we couldn't save," he gritted out, rubbing at his eyes. There was a strange pressure there; not the kind that came when he felt like crying. He couldn't place he feeling, but he hated it.

 

Dean waited until they got back to the car to start talking, not starting the car up. "Listen. This is not your fault. Gabriel knew what he was doing. It wasn't our job to save him. Okay?"

 

Sam nodded, but he didn't believe it. He knew Dean could read it in his face, but thankfully he didn't do anything beside sigh and turn the car on. They drove off and the radio stayed off.

 

Neither of them noticed that the rain had stopped.

 

--

 

Sam took over driving sometime around 3 am, letting Dean catch a few hours of shuteye before they got to Bobby's. They were about three hours from Sioux Falls, but Sam didn't dare call and wake Bobby up. They'd call when they were closer. Dean snorted in his sleep and curled tighter together in the back seat, pulling his coat over himself. Sam turned the air up, feeling the chill himself.

 

Driving always gave him time to think.

 

He couldn't get the image of Gabriel's slack face out of his head. He'd only ever seen it when it was mocking him or bragging, or more recently, broken over a fight he couldn't stop. It was complicated. More complicated than Sam wanted to admit to himself.

 

Gabriel was dead, and so was their probable last chance at killing the Devil. Sam had no idea where to move from here - if there even was anywhere to move. They were fresh out of ideas, out of options. No way to stop the apocalypse now, not any way they knew of.

 

Maybe Bobby had some ideas.

 

The hours started flying by, and Sam stopped at a 24-hour fast food place at about 5 am, dragging Dean inside. Once Dean was in he was completely coherent, ordering up a heart attack while Sam stuck with a nice side salad and an orange juice.

 

"You good to drive?" Dean asked, chowing away at his burger. Sam nodded, wiping at his mouth.

 

"I got a couple more in me," he said, shrugging. "You can sleep if you want."

 

"Nah." Dean stretched, back cracking audibly. "Backs all out of whack again. I love Baby, but dammit, she could be a bit wider."

 

"Alright."

 

They ate in a comfortable silence once more. Sam finished before Dean and waited, mind shifting around in thought again. If not for the apocalypse, for Michael and Lucifer, it would just feel like a normal day. Him and Dean, driving around the country and helping people. Nothing complicated.

 

Lately, it felt like they were doing more harm than good.

 

Sam kicked that thought away as quick as he could. Dean had been right last night - continuing to think about screwups and small things wasn't going to help anybody. And if Dean could find the strength to say no to Michael, Sam could find the strength to keep fighting too.

 

They'd be enough. If only they could find Castiel.

 

"M'good," Dean said, tossing his napkin down on the tray. "Let's go." They made their way back to the car and slid into the front seat. Dean pushed in one of his old cassettes, and Lynyrd Skynyrd blasted from the speakers. Sam couldn't stop himself from grinning, even when Dean turned the music up to deafening levels. It felt so normal.

 

"How far are we from Sioux Falls?" Dean half-shouted over the music.

 

"About... an hour, give or take," Sam said, readjusting the mirror. They pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the road. Dean didn't talk for most of the ride, turning the music down only once to call Bobby at about 6.

 

Sam had laughed when Dean flinched, most likely from Bobby yelling about how he woke him up. Dean's frantic apologies didn't seem to help, and Sam just smiled.

 

In less than half an hour they finally rolled into Bobby's driveway - or, as Sam saw it, nothing but dirt with tire tracks on it. Dean was out and stomping up the steps in an instant, calling out a forced happy greeting to Bobby. The man greeted them at the door, shotgun on his legs resting in Dean's direction. That was all he needed to shut him up, and Sam followed Dean into the house.

 

Bacon was sizzling on the griddle when they went into the kitchen to grab a couple of beers. "We're gonna need a food run soon," Bobby grunted, rolling into the study and situating himself behind his desk. "Help yourselves to the bacon, and then you can come over here and help me."

 

"Aw, Bobby, we just got in. Can't we get an hour or two to rest?" Dean complained, talking around a mouth full of bacon. Bobby leveled an extremely unimpressed look at him, folding his arms.

 

"Oh, I'm sorry princess, didja not get your eight hours of beauty sleep last night?" Bobby rolled his eyes and Sam all but ran into the study to help. Dean glared at Bobby and stubbornly started chewing on another piece of bacon.

 

They ended up watching Gabriel's DVD a couple hours later, after Dean had stopped throwing his mini bitch fit and helped research. As their good fortune would have it, they'd found absolutely nothing that could help them avert the apocalypse. It didn't help that no sign of Adam had turned up either - Sam didn't want to be the one to say it aloud, but it was looking more and more likely that Michael had taken him as a vessel. Judging by Dean's dark looks whenever his name was mentioned, he was thinking the same.

 

Sam pulled his laptop out of his bag, setting it up on the desk in front of Bobby and Dean. He leaned back against the bookshelves to watch, trying not to cringe when the cheesy porn music started. Bobby took one look at the video, turned a glare on both of the boys, and tried to wheel away. Dean's hand came down hard on the arm of Bobby's chair, keeping him in place. Sam winced, watching as Bobby slowly turned to face his brother.

 

A couple shotgun threats later, Sam had calmed Bobby down enough to be quiet and just watch the video. Even the second time around and after having seen the proof firsthand, it hurt to hear the quiet, "I'm dead." Sam shook it off though, and tried to pay attention to the rest of what Gabriel was saying.

 

His head perked up when he heard something about shoving Lucifer back in the box. Maybe there was something they had overlooked, some way they could still end this before too many more people got hurt.

 

"The keys to the cage? They're out there." Bobby leaned forward and paused the video, turning to face Sam and Dean. "Either of you got any clue what he's on about?" Dean and Sam just shook their heads mutely, and Bobby let the rest of it play.

 

"Actually, keys. Plural. Four keys, well, four rings. From the Horsemen." This time Sam was the one to pause the video. He was almost shaking in excitement. Two of the rings were already theirs, hidden in a curse box downstairs in Bobby's panic room. It had been touched up with angel sigil recently, so there was no way anything was getting in and taking those.

 

Dean and he were on the same wavelength. Dean was just verbalizing everything, eyes glowing in excitement. "We've already got two," he said, "Famine and War. Now we just need, what?"

 

"Pestilence and Death," Bobby answered, looking more grim than them both. "Pestilence has already been causing trouble. New illness, swine flu, has been passing around the country. It's on it's way to becoming a plague."

 

That definitely put the damper on things, but Sam couldn't shake the belief that they were gonna win this one. Maybe it was dangerous to feel that way this early in the game, but sometimes it didn't hurt to have a little hope.

 

He went over to grab a couple beers while Dean and Bobby talked strategy back in the study.

 

"Last I heard," Bobby explained, "Pestilence was wreaking havoc along the West Coast. Thing is, he’s moving east. Fast."

 

"So, what, me and Dean head out and try to catch his trail? See if we can anticipate his next move?" Sam asked, coming back and handing a beer to each of them.

 

Bobby shrugged. "Worth a shot, I suppose. Wouldn't do any more harm than you sitting here and doing jack, anyway."

 

Dean nodded decisively, as if that had made the decision for him. "Great. I'd rather be on the road. We'll head out tomorrow morning after I get a couple more hours shuteye." He pushed away from the desk and headed into the kitchen, grabbing bread from the closet on the way. "I'll make sandwiches."

 

--

 

There was an abandoned oasis in the middle of the Sahara desert, where the water ran dry and the buildings had been empty for centuries. It was the worse kind of illusion - there was little worse than seeing something real only to learn that it couldn't help you anyway.

 

True, it might not be able to help a poor mortal stuck in a desert. But that wasn't what Kali needed it for. She pulled the vial of blood from inside her shirt and tugged the necklace holding it over her head. With a gesture of her hand, the sand came together and formed a vaguely humanoid shape, standing in front of her. She pushed it backward until it was laying flat on the ground. Carefully, she poured out the contents of the vial, watching whilst the grace intertwined with the blood, glowing a bright blueish-white. The blood stayed exactly where she had dropped it, not running off the sides and instead sinking into the sand. The wind picked up around her, but nothing stirred within the circle of magic she had created.

 

Kali lifted her head to the sky, cupping her hands together and letting flame grow between them.

 

"Lā'ipha... Tumakō kē li'ē vāpasī." She chanted, getting louder each time. "Lā'ipha... Tujhē dē. Lā'ipha... Tujhē mujha sē. Lā'ipha... Tumakō hama sē. Lā'ipha... Tumakō karanē kē li'ē sabhī sē."

 

The heat around her grew almost unbearable, and she pulled a knife out of thin air. Without hesitation she cut into a vein in her right forearm, letting the silvery blood flow out over the sand corpse she had reassembled. She spoke the words again, fire growing larger in her palm. The blood dripped steadily from the cut in her arm, until the entire corpse was covered in it. With a whispered spell the blood and grace sank inside, and Kali let the flame drop onto the corpse.

 

It engulfed the sand. The fire rose high in the air, smokeless, but did not expand away from the makeshift body. As the flames grew hotter and hotter, Kali bent down and began molding the face, shaping it into the contours she had memorized. The face was the only important bit; everything else would assume it's proper form once the face had been cast.

 

She stepped away from the flame and waited, watching as the sand burned under her gaze. As quickly as it came, the fire burned out, remnants of ash flying away into the sky. All that was left of the body Kali had formed was a pile of ashes, being blown away by the wind. She gazed at it intently, but did not move any closer to it.

 

The pile shifted. A pale hand came through the top of the ash, before more of it was brushed away. An arm, a torso, and finally a familiar head came pushing out of the ash.

 

Gabriel lay there panting, legs still trapped by the ash. He was completely naked, and cast his head around to make some sense of the situation.

 

His eyes landed on Kali, and his lips twisted up into a smirk. "I know we've done some kinky things before, but ash? Really?" he muttered, finally pulling himself free. Kali just frowned, folding her arms over her chest.

 

"Don't make me regret this," she threatened, voice low. Gabriel winced a bit as he sat up. The smirk he gave her was a shadow of his normal one; he couldn't mask the flash of pain in his eyes.

 

"Me?" he rasped out. "Never." Kali just frowned down at him while Gabriel struggled to a standing position. He rolled his shoulders back, letting his wings flare out. Kali averted her eyes out of courtesy. The wind whipped up as he flapped his wings a few times, clearing them of the ash. Sand blew up around them, and Kali brushed a few offending grains off of her shirt.

 

Snapping his fingers, Gabriel summoned a pack of candy into his hand. His eyes lit up at the sight. "Mojo and all. Gotta say, Kali, I'm impressed." The smile dropped from his eyes when he turned to face her, letting his wings fade back into another plane of existence. His face was hard, the picture of the archangel that he had been all along. "Why?"

 

"Because you did take it seriously," Kali responded. "I don't want the world to end just as much as you don't." She paused, flicking another piece of sand from her shirt. "And think of it as reparations."

 

"Regretting killing me already?" Gabriel teased, although there wasn't any humor behind the words.

 

"That was Lucifer," she said. "You only let me think I had killed you."

 

"Think it still counts, sweetheart." Gabriel snapped his fingers again, holding his hand out expectantly. When nothing appeared his brow creased, before he snapped again. Kali watched on, disinterested, before Gabriel swore deeply.

 

"Fucking - Winchesters, always getting in the way of things." He groaned, letting his hand fall to his side. He seemed to suddenly realize he was naked, and snapped clothes onto himself as though nothing had happened. "Time to pay them a visit."

 

"You won't blame me if I choose to take a day off this time," Kali said, taking a step back.

 

"Nah. Might as well try and keep this within the family," Gabriel said, saluting her while she stepped away. "But first." He stepped forward, catching her arm, and tugged her to him.

 

His lips met hers in a kiss, harder than their last, and Kali let her arms twine around his back. Gabriel's arm came around her waist, pulling her in tight, and then pulled away when her arms trailed down his back. There was a familiar glint of trickery in his eyes.

 

"Figured might as well have a last one that didn't end with you stealing my blood." Gabriel grinned, predatory, and then let go of her arm. Kali frowned over at him and took another step away. She turned her head up to the sky and felt the wind catch her, watching Gabriel's face soften slightly as she vanished.

 

--

 

Gabriel waited for Kali to leave before letting his features fall. His back ached. He wasn't sure what it was from, whether from the rebirth ritual she had performed or having just been recently deceased, but something was off. The rubbing of fabric on skin was chafing, and with a thought his shirt disappeared. He stood there in jeans and twisted in vain, the movement just making his back hurt worse. He could only just make out some golden swirls, but nothing more than that. Something twinged right at the base of his spine as he twisted again, and he almost doubled over.

 

His grace twitched, and eventually he stopped trying. The shirt went back on as he tried not to move unnecessarily. It hurt in the small of his back the most, with little areas of pain spreading over his shoulders and almost to his sides.

 

"Should've sucked it up and asked Kali," he muttered, itching at the back of his neck. The desert was almost unbearably hot, beating down upon him mercilessly. With a sigh, he loosened the ash pile, letting the grains fly away with the wind. He snapped and the world dissolved around him as he flew away, touching down in a deserted car junk yard.

 

Sam and Dean Winchester.

 

Just when he thought he'd gotten out of their whole mess, Kali had to go and shove him right back in the thick of it. Typical. Probably thought it was payback for the whole Nepal incident (she never had believed him when he'd tried to blame it on Ganesh).

 

He trudged up the lawn to the rundown house, not too surprised to find angel warding in the layout. Given his archangel status, he could just break it and walk in, but after all the hard work they'd done installing it? Rude.

 

He snapped his fingers and the wards broke. The screen door swung inward with a nod of his head, crashing against the wall.

 

"Hey, boys," he called, stepping inside the house. All movement had stilled, save for the steady drip of the kitchen sink. "What, no welcome party for yours truly?"

 

Sam was the first one in the kitchen, Colt in hand and leveled at Gabriel's heart. "What are you?" he asked, finger steady on the trigger.

 

"Not a demon, if that's what you're asking." There was a rustle of movement behind him, and he turned just in time to catch Dean's knife as it arced down toward his chest. He pushed Dean back into the wall, only hard enough to daze him for a moment. "Listen!" he yelled, hands up defensively. "I'm not a shifter or a demon or any supernatural creature. Promise."

 

"Right," Dean scoffed, moving to stand next to Sam, boxing him in. "Because your promises are worth so much."

 

Gabriel shot him a dark look before turning to Sam, appealing to his more logical nature. "I know this looks suspicious. Kali brought me back, though, some sort of bloodspell. Not sure which, exactly - I was a bit busy being dead. After saving you too, might I add." He folded his arms and leaned against the countertop, glaring at both of them. "So if you'd just give me my angel blade, we can -"

 

"Prove it."

 

Gabriel just stared at Sam until he flushed, gritting his teeth. "I mean, tell us something only Gabriel would know."

 

"Fine," Gabriel said. "Aliens. Crawford Hall. Sam, remember that time you got hit in the nuts? All me. Fantastic viewing material. And then there was that commercial -"

 

"Okay, alright, we get it." Surprisingly, it was Dean who spoke up. Granted, it might have been because Sam seemed to be choking on something, face an angry red. He looked almost two seconds away from leaping forward to deck Gabriel.

 

Gabriel held his hands up in a placating gesture. "Run whatever tests you want, but I'm me."

 

He tapped his foot impatiently while Dean and Sam looked at each other, then back to him, and then at each other, etc. etc. At this rate they were having an entire silent conversation inside there. When the door opened slowly, he was halfway to muttering out a "Finally," when water splashed on his face.

 

Holy water, judging by the taste.

 

He blinked away the water and his gaze refocused on them. "Yeah, not a demon." Running a hand through his now-wet hair, he tried to push past them and get into the house and grab his angel blade. They didn't budge, both of them looking worriedly at the other. Gabriel could have forced them apart if he'd wanted, but instead he just rolled his eyes. "What now?"

 

Wordlessly, Sam pulled out a blade and Gabriel chuckled. "Oh, right, shifter test. Here." He took the blade and sliced into his arm, snapping the moment both Winchesters seemed satisfied. The wound healed immediately, until his arm was smooth again.

 

"Hold up," a gruff voice sounded from behind the boys. They both stepped to the side immediately as an older man wheeled himself out of the house. "I thought you said he was dead?"

 

"Sorry, but no," Gabriel put in, taking a step forward. "You must be Bobby. Probably should apologize for setting a chainsaw on you the last time we met. But, then again, you were trying to kill me." He smirked, looking Bobby up and down. "Although, last time I saw you, you were on two legs."

 

A searing pain burst in his chest, and he glanced down to see that the shotgun in Bobby's lap was smoking.

 

"Might wanna watch yourself there," he growled. Gabriel just rolled his eyes, but didn't say anything more. The shotgun round had missed the wound left by the angel blade, but it had still twinged. Clenching his fist, he used his mojo to pull the bullet out.

 

"Do you still have your grace?" Sam asked, glancing over between him and Bobby. He looked almost like he was considering getting between them, but didn't want to piss Bobby off even more. In answer, Gabriel held up the bloody bullet with clean fingers. "...Right."

 

"Hey," Dean said abruptly, tossing a blade of iron over to Gabriel. Bobby wheeled away, giving him one last glare.

 

"That man gives new meaning to the saying 'if looks could kill'," Gabriel said, frowning after him. Dean just nodded.

 

"He'd think that was a compliment," he said, gaze locked on the blade in Gabriel's hand. Rolling his eyes, Gabriel cut into his skin, not even flinching. Like before, the cut healed immediately after, and he tossed the blade back to Dean.

 

"So," Gabriel said, now that there weren't any more tests. "Where's the wingless wonder?"

 

Before he could react, he'd been pushed roughly against the nearby wall by Dean. He vaguely registered an arm pressing against his windpipe, before he snapped, popping out of the tight grip. Dean stumbled into the wall, momentum carrying him forward, while Gabriel appeared directly behind him. In no time, Sam was in between the two of them, holding Dean back.

 

"Hey!" he yelled, shaking Dean's shoulder. "Calm down!"

 

Dean near-snarled at Gabriel over Sam's shoulder. "You son of a bitch, say that one -" He was cut off by Sam pressing him into another room and slamming the door, though Gabriel could still hear his muffled threats through the walls.

 

The sound of a wheelchair creaking caused him to spin around, coming face to face - well, chest to face - with Bobby. There wasn't a hint of humor on the man's face, and he grabbed the front of Gabriel's jacket to haul him down to eye level.

 

It would have been easy, so easy for Gabriel to break out of the hold, but some instinct told him that Bobby wasn't gonna hurt him. This time, at least.

 

"You listen to me now. My house, my rules," Bobby growled. "Play nice with the boys, or you'll be getting a faceful of bullets."

 

Gabriel finally pulled away, leveling an unimpressed look at the older hunter. "You're out of the actual bullets. You know that won't hurt me."

 

"They might when they have melted angel blade in them." Bobby made a last threatening gesture with the Colt before steering his wheelchair around and going back into the study. Gabriel watched him go, cursing. He should have just left the blade behind and fucked off to somewhere warm.

 

Jamaica was nice this time of year.

 

--

 

Sam didn't let go of Dean until they were well into the next room and he could shut and lock the door. Dean was fuming behind him, yelling every threat under the sun at Gabriel in the other room. For the most part, Sam couldn't blame him. Going after Castiel was like going after one of his family; if Sam hadn't been trying to pull Gabriel over to their side of the war, he might have let loose too.

 

As it was, he'd struggled with not punching the dick. As pointless as it would have been, it would have been worth it for the sheer satisfaction.

 

"I'm gonna kill him," Dean was repeating, pacing the length of the room. He grabbed a leather-bound book and threw it at the wall, where it bounced off harmlessly.

 

Sam couldn't stop the small flinch he had when the book hit the wall.

 

Dean resumed pacing.

 

"Look, I know how pissed off you are. I get it," Sam tried, breaking off when Dean laughed. It was empty and emotionless, and when he turned to face Sam, all that showed on his face was a deep tiredness.

 

"Do you, though?" Dean asked. "I don't see you raring to slug him. Hard. Preferably in the face." He stopped pacing and crossed his arms. "If you'd wanted to rip him a new one after his little comment, you wouldn't have stopped me."

 

"Dean, it would hurt you more than him." He ignored Dean's muttered "But it would feel damn good," and kept talking. "Plus. I don't think we can afford to piss him off. Maybe we can convince him to fight, get him on our side, even."

 

Dean scrubbed a long hand down the side of his face. "There's no way he'll say yes. We've tried this before, and it didn't work out then either. He'd rather fly off and let the world end around his ears."

 

"We don't know that," Sam said, taking a beseeching step forward. He thought Dean had at least held a sort of grudging respect for Gabriel after Elysian Fields; however much of it was left had been ripped away by his callous comment about Castiel. "Lucifer killed him. He might be a little bit more receptive this time around."

 

Dean sighed heavily. "I don't like it."

 

"Me neither, much."

 

"I don't trust him."

 

"No one does."

 

Neither of them spoke for a while; Sam chewed nervously on his lip, waiting for Dean to either accept the plan or reject it. The seconds dragged on while Dean frowned down at a corner of the room.

 

"Fine," he said, gritting his teeth. "Fine, whatever. But if he says okay and we somehow manage to make it through all this shit, I'm punching him as soon as the Apocalypse is averted."

 

Sam chuckled. "I'll help you there."

 

He stood aside and unlocked the door, letting Dean step out first. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Gabriel wasn't anywhere in the kitchen. They headed into the study to find him standing opposite Bobby, arms braced against the desk while he examined a map.

 

"You've got Pestilence traced this well?" he was asking, following the trail with his finger.

 

"As best as I could," Bobby said. "But we can't predict his next moves. There's no pattern here, he's just going wherever there's a major hospital. He's doubled back a couple times, so we can't assume anything."

 

"Hm." Gabriel pushed back off the table and folded his arms over his chest. "Still, I'm impressed."

 

Sam stepped forward, rounding the desk to stand behind Bobby and examine the map. "Next stop looks like someplace in Iowa. At least, best we can guess."

 

Gabriel shrugged. "Mind if I tag along, boys?"

 

Sam and Dean exchanged a glance. As much help as Gabriel could probably be, Sam didn't know how much he trusted the archangel. He'd been fickle in the past, and even though he'd chosen a side when standing up against Lucifer, Sam didn't know if he still felt the same. Gabriel must have noticed his hesitation, because he just rolled his eyes and let out a heavy sigh.

 

"Wasn't I the one who told you about the rings? What, you think I'm gonna turn on you and help Pestilence?" He scoffed. "Please. We're not on good terms. Trust me."

 

Sam gave him a sidelong look, and Gabriel just frowned again. "Alright, maybe not the best choice of words. But I'm on your side for this, okay?"

 

Dean didn't look convinced, but Sam found him believing Gabriel's words. Bobby just looked suspicious, but then again, he always did. Sam couldn't read what he was thinking. He knew it would be pointless to try and send the archangel away so he could talk with Dean and Bobby privately - Gabriel had never been big on privacy, and even though he might be on their side, Sam wouldn't put eavesdropping past him.

 

"You can tag along," he said finally, ignoring how Dean's mouth dropped open. Bobby's face didn't change, but Sam thought he detected a hint of agreement in his eyes. "But there's a couple conditions."

 

He ticked them off on his fingers. "You have to listen to me and Dean. I don't care that you're an archangel. If you have a plan, share it with the crowd. Don't go haring off." Sam didn't really want to remind Gabriel of what happened last time his plan had fallen short, so he was glad when Gabriel didn't argue. "Second..." He pulled Gabriel's angel blade from where he had it tucked between his jeans and his back, handing it over to the archangel hilt-first. "No killing humans. Or demon's vessels, if you can help it. We aren't there to leave bodies in our wake. Only Pestilence's." Gabriel's eyebrows knitted together, more in disbelief than anger.

 

"Fine. When are we leaving?" he asked, and Sam shrugged, looking toward Dean. It was his call.

 

"One more day can't hurt, right Bobby?" Dean asked, turning to the man. Bobby just shrugged, not answering either way.

 

"Maybe we should start now," Sam suggested, although the last thing he wanted to do was get back in the car. Especially not when they'd have to deal with an unpredictable archangel sitting in the backseat.

 

"That'd be better," Bobby said, glancing between the three of them. Sam nodded, looking at Dean to catch his answer.

 

"Sure." Dean nodded, pulling the keys to the Impala out of his pocket. He didn't look over at Gabriel when he motioned for Sam to follow him.

 

Sam hesitated, eyes drifting over to where Gabriel was resting against the desk. There wasn't a hint of an expression on his face, although one eyebrow was raised almost challengingly. Dean was already out of the room, shrugging back into his jacket. Sam didn't move for a couple seconds, jumping when he heard Dean call his name.

 

"You coming?" Sam said, heading out of the kitchen. He heard Gabriel's footsteps behind him and stifled a sigh of relief. If Gabriel was willing to listen to them with minimal argument, Sam was in no position to complain.

 

They both made it outside in time to hear Dean swear loudly. His phone was pressed to his ear in a white-knuckled grip.

 

"What's up?" Sam called, concerned. Dean just shook his head, mouth twisted into a frown.

 

"Where are you?" Dean said, turning to lean against the door of the Impala. His eyes were shadowed, and as Sam got closer he could sense the tension rolling off Dean in waves.

 

"So," Gabriel said, coming to stand next to Sam. "Guess my little bro isn't as out of the game as I thought."

 

Dean shot him a dark look, before redirecting his gaze to Sam.

 

"Cas is in a hospital. Delacroix."

 

"Awesome," Sam said, grinning. "When's he getting here?" He paused, listening for the tell tale sound of wings. At his side, Gabriel tensed; Sam held onto the observation for later, grin fading at the evasive look on Dean's face. "Dean."

 

"Can't. His grace is gone, he's stuck where he is for now," Dean frowned, jaw clenching. Sam swore under his breath, rubbing a hand on the back of his neck.

 

"Shit."

 

"Yeah," Dean said, heaving a sigh. "You said it."

 

Gabriel took a step forward then; Sam hadn't noticed how far he'd moved away after hearing about Castiel. His face was carefully blank; his voice didn't give away any hint of emotion. But he was being careful - there wasn't any flippancy in his voice this time. Either he (finally) understood the gravity of the situation, or he remembered Dean's less than friendly reaction earlier, Gabriel didn't seem like he thought of Castiel's situation as funny anymore.

 

"Someone needs to get him," he said, nodding at Dean. Sam glanced up to find Dean watching him, conflicted look in his eyes.

 

"Y'know," Sam said, eyes flicking to Gabriel and back. "He's right. You take the Impala and pick him up."

 

"What about Pestilence?" Dean asked.

 

"Me and Gabriel can take him on." Sam turned to Gabriel, frowning. "You think?"

 

Gabriel nodded shortly, before snapping. A non-descript car appeared next to the Impala, and the keys jumped into Sam's hand.

 

He stared at them, dumbfounded.

 

"What?" Gabriel said, shrugging. "I doubt Dean's gonna give you his Impala, and I'm not one for classic junkyard cars. Sorry."

 

Sam glanced over at the car, ignoring how Dean was glaring at it with a curled lip. "Okay, then." He tossed the keys in his hand, turning back to face Dean. "You gonna be okay?"

 

Dean shot him his classic shit-eating grin, but it wasn't as carefree as Sam remembered. It was weighed down with the weight of what they were about to do; Sam could relate.

 

Gabriel clapped his hands together behind him, looking between the brothers with a fake cheery smile. "Alright, boys, let's get a move on. Pestilence is looking a little less impaled than I'd like - time to change that."

 

Sam rolled his eyes, but couldn't help the snicker that escaped. Dean gave him an almost betrayed look, but Sam shrugged it off. He'd been on the receiving end of that look a lot in the past year or so. It wasn't anything new to him.

 

But it wasn't any use dragging up bad memories. So instead he just grabbed his brother in a one-armed hug, clapping him on the back. "Tell Cas I said hey."

 

"Give Pestilence a kick in the ass from me," Dean replied, smirking. He turned back to the Impala and slid in, starting her up and roaring into the distance. Sam watched him go before turning to the car Gabriel had snapped up.

 

"Are you sure this is gonna drive right?" Sam asked apprehensively. Gabriel just shook his head.

 

"No faith. Listen, I nabbed it from some dealership in Northern Ohio. Won't even be missed, trust me," Gabriel explained, going around the front of the car to the passenger side. "Wasn't a totally legit acquisition, but I'm pretty sure they've got more to worry about. Y'know, with the apocalypse and all."

 

Sam just stared at him. "How can you be so casual about it? The world's gonna end. Millions of people are gonna die. Hell, you died."

 

Gabriel shrugged. "It's either this or fatalism, so. Your pick."

 

"Personally, I'd take you being serious."

 

"You sound like Kali. And anyway," Gabriel chuckled, getting into the car. Sam followed his lead. "Sorry to disappoint."