“Why is it that no matter how hard I try, it always ends up going wrong somehow?” Sam groused.
Dean stepped up next to him and clapped a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Personally, I think you're cursed, baby bro.”
“Gee, that's such a great comfort, thank you,” Sam sneered, crossing his arms angrily over his chest, as the the smoke thickened over his work table.
“I'm just saying, maybe the universe is trying to send you a message. Maybe you should stop trying so hard to go by the book, if this is what happens every time you play it straight.”
“Coming from the guy who thinks books make you ill, that sounds like fantastic advice.”
“No, he's got a point,” came a snarky voice from behind the smoke, and Sam groaned with frustration.
“Go away, Gabriel,” Sam said weakly.
“Hey, I'm serious!” Gabriel said, waving the smoke away as he stepped into view. “I never played by the rules and look where that got me!”
“Yesterday it got you in the stocks for an hour and the king himself threw you in the dungeons last week.”
Gabriel shrugged. “Well at least I don't set my own work on fire every other day,” he said breezily and left with a smirk. As if to mock him, Sam's smoke ridden work table chose that moment to actually catch flame.
“Gods give me strength,” Sam pleaded, but the only answer he got was Dean saying he'd go to the well for some water to properly put out the smoldering table.
Being a wizard's apprentice was hard work, no matter how much Dean sneered at the lack of physical exertion. Dean would never be capable of fasting for three days to cleanse before a demanding spell, and he couldn't sit still long enough to read a scroll, never mind a book. So Sam thought it was a blessing that Dean got accepted as a squire, soon to become a knight himself if all went well. That way at least Dean was too busy hitting things to spend his time nagging Sam about his choice of profession.
He never seemed to be too busy to mock Sam for his failures, though.
It was just so unfair. Sam studied, asked questions, worked hard and yet... things always went wrong. Something always caught fire or melted or exploded or, in one vaguely scarring incident, changed sex. Master Singer had not been amused.
But the real bane of Sam's existence was not annoying older brothers, Sam's continuing streak of accidents, or even the resulting punishments from his mentor every time he destroyed something. No, what really got to Sam was Gabriel.
Lord Gabriel Milton was a wizard himself, and Sam thanked his lucky stars that Gabriel hadn't been around when Sam had been taken on as a royal wizard's apprentice and was given a mentor. Because not only did Gabriel seem to go out of his way to pop up every time Sam was screwing up again, but he also somehow managed to be a charming and weirdly attractive asshole at the same time, leaving Sam torn between hating his guts and whimpering at his feet. Having to deal with that while also working for him sounded like Sam's idea of endless doom.
Not that Gabriel seemed to even want an apprentice, and in Sam's opinion that was massively comforting. Because Gabriel's type of magic was just as likely to kill you as help you, and even though he always managed to set things right again, Sam really didn't think anyone should have to suffer through the soul-scarring experience of Gabriel's services and then also have to pay for it after. Gabriel didn't even refer to himself as a wizard. Instead he called himself a trickster, and Sam thought it was probably the most fitting title he could have come up with. Because even the simplest spells could cause enormous trouble in Gabriel's hands.
But he also made the most beautiful fireworks, the most delicious candy, and his hair looked silkenly soft in the light from the bonfires, and his eyes swirled gold like honey-rich mead... and Sam should really stop writing poetry. In any case, Gabriel just made things complicated. But that didn't stop Sam from being stupidly star-struck every time Gabriel snapped his fingers and performed yet another amazing trick.
Which he did again just as Sam thought his mortification could hardly get worse. A sharp snap later a single dark-grey raincloud popped into existence right above the flames and doused Sam's whole work area in a heavy, but extremely localized rain fall.
Sam turned around just in time to see Gabriel wink at him, turn on his heel and walk away again. The fact that the rain cloud took to following Sam around once it was done putting out fires didn't help Sam's mood. Although when Master Singer saw his soggy, bedraggled apprentice, he did laugh so hard he forgot to punish Sam. Which was good. The fact that he could do nothing but wander around being soaked and useless for most of the day until the cloud finally decided to vanish was not good. So as per usual Sam was left with mixed feelings about Gabriel. Impressed by the magic, annoyed by the method. Or lack thereof.
In any case, things were clearly getting slightly out of hand, because Dean started to notice that Sam's vehement exclamations of dislike towards Gabriel might not always be entirely genuine. And while that sort of thing wasn't really frowned upon here in the civilized world of the king's capitol, Sam wasn't quite ready to explain to Dean that he liked women just about as much as he liked turnips. That is to say: not a lot.
As an extra cherry on top Sam was pretty sure that even though Gabriel seemed to almost flaunt his appreciation for any and all people-shaped beings, he would probably at best be able to offer a few nights of fun. Because despite his self-proclaimed title of trickster, he was also a lord. Lords needed to marry and produce heirs. That was just a fact of life. It was rare for members of court to choose a profession, but Gabriel seemed determined to break every single unwritten rule of lordship. But he still had his lands and his duties to consider, and since Gabriel seemed to crave a life of luxury Sam doubted he'd want to give that up just for... whatever that vague thing was Sam sometimes caught himself daydreaming of in weak moments. Mostly it involved the two of them and flowery fields and lunches in the woods and...
Sam really, really needed to stop being so pathetic.
So plainly the way to go was to avoid Gabriel at all costs. But that plan was thoroughly trashed when Sam showed up at Master Singer's workshop one morning, and was told that he would be assigned another mentor. Sam's stomach turned violently, because the city was big, but it wasn't exactly crawling with accomplished magic users. So this shocking news could only mean one thing. Sam only barely managed not to vomit all over Master Singer's doormat when he was told to report to Gabriel's quarters in the east tower of the king's castle.
So Sam did the only sensible thing he could think of. He got the hell out of there.
He sprinted back to his room behind the castle kitchens, stuffed his meager possessions into a sack and left without a backward glance. He would have to try his luck in some other city, preferably another country. He'd gotten accepted as an apprentice once, he was sure he could manage to do so again. The only question was whether Dean would want to go with him or not. But there was no way Sam could work with Gabriel on a daily basis without getting killed, having his heart broken, or – most likely – both.
So off to the training grounds he went. The knights hadn't seen Dean yet that morning, which wasn't surprising since Dean tended to look a little too deeply in the cups at the tavern every once in a while, so Sam trotted off to Dean's room at the squire house. He didn't even knock, because living with Dean for most of his life had assured him that there was literally nothing Dean could be doing that he hadn't already seen, as regrettable as that was for Sam's peace of mind. But as he swung the door open, he found himself violently revising that fact.
Because Dean was in bed, as expected. And, unsurprisingly, he wasn't even alone in it. But the person with him this morning wasn't a busty bar maid or a willowy seamstress. The tousle-haired, bleary-eyed head that popped up from beneath the covers belonged to a very male knight that Sam knew of only distantly. Sir Castiel, if memory served. And neither of the pair in bed seemed even remotely shocked about that fact, so Sam's brief thought that perhaps the triple-fermented mead was to blame was rapidly dismissed.
“Uh... hi, Sammy. Ever hear of knocking?” Dean said awkwardly, while Castiel merely blinked at him.
Sam was speechless. “Dean what....since when are you... he's not a woman!” was the unfortunate final choice for a complete sentence.
Dean raised a truly unimpressed eyebrow, and for once Sam felt exactly as stupid as Dean sometimes seemed to think he was. “Well, gee, I hadn't noticed, thanks for pointing that out, bro.”
“Samuel,” Castiel rumbled, sounding way too much like someone who'd spent the whole night doing things Sam wasn't eager to imagine his brother doing with anyone, no matter what gender. “I'm very pleased to meet you, although I had hoped for a more... dignified setting.”
“I'm... you... this...” Sam stuttered.
“Well don't sugarcoat it, Sam, tell us how you really feel,” Dean said, grinning like the shameless bastard he was. And that smug face was at least partly to blame for what fell out of Sam's mouth next.
“You will never be an uncle!” he yelled, before turning on his heel and stomping away. He pushed past a few disgruntled squires until he made it to the narrow street outside, breathing hard.
“How can this be my life... how is that even possible?” Sam muttered angrily as he strode along, no real direction in mind. “How can one person have this much bad luck... how... I mean, I work hard, I pay my debts, I'm polite, I help people...”
A few people looked at him strangely as he stalked down the street talking to himself, but Sam hardly even noticed.
“I don't deserve all this shit,” he grumbled. “And why am I the one embarrassed here? I'm not the one just caught with my pants down. Gods, I hope they were wearing pants...”
“Who's not wearing pants?” came a voice from so close behind him that Sam jumped slightly. But he didn't have to turn around to know who it was.
“Juuust perfect,” he sighed, and kept walking.
Gabriel huffed, following closely. “Okay, fine, don't tell me. Besides, the only pants I really want to see on the floor are yours.”
Sam didn't have to turn around to know that Gabriel was waggling his eyebrows. “Just mine?” Sam asked, his voice bitter. “Well then I guess half the whorehouses in town will be disappointed.”
“Ouch!” Gabriel cried dramatically. “Right through the heart, Sam! This new brutal side of you is very sexy, though.”
“Oh, leave me alone.”
“I would, but you see, I was supposed to be taking on my first apprentice this morning, and whaddya know, he never showed!”
Sam snorted in spite of himself. “Subtle, Gabriel. Real subtle.”
“Yeah, I thought so too. Good to see we're on the same page.”
Without even realizing it, Sam had somehow arrived back at the castle, and it would only take a quick turn through the courtyard to get to the east tower and Gabriel's quarters. Sam slowed to a halt, dread pooling in his gut. His escape attempt had only gotten him another shock to his system on the one morning where he truly didn't need it, and he ended up just standing there, at a loss for what to do next.
“Look, kiddo, I know you think I just took you on to mess with you, but I swear, there's more to it,” Gabriel said, his voice uncharacteristically soft. “If you'll just come inside, I'll explain everything.”
Sam finally turned to face him, expecting to find that familiar glint of mischief or perhaps a poorly hidden sign of dishonesty. But for once Gabriel's face was open, and whatever masks he usually wore seemed to be all but gone. His eyes were fixed on Sam's, wordlessly asking for trust. Not an easy thing to grant a trickster. But Sam was shaken in a lot of ways already, and all else aside, he still maintained his pathetic yearning to be close to Gabriel. So in the end there was only one outcome, and a short nod later, Sam followed Gabriel up the stairs of the tower.
Gabriel's home and workshop looked like Sam had already been there. Everything was chaos. Books littered all surfaces, along with broken beakers and cauldrons, spell components and clothes. At Sam's raised eyebrows Gabriel merely shrugged.
“I don't tend to spend a lot of time here. I guess it shows. Have a seat,” he said, pointing Sam towards the bed in the corner which seemed to be the only piece of furniture free of debris.
Swallowing thickly, Sam sat down on the bed he'd spent far too much time picturing himself in. Yeah, this wasn't awkward at all. While Sam was busy trying not to think about his fantasies, Gabriel dug out a small stool from somewhere and planted himself on it in front of Sam, bringing them almost to eye level. Not to mention so close that their knees touched. Sam couldn't decide if that was wonderful or terrifying.
“So here's the thing. Me and Singer had a bit of a chat about you, Sam. You're smart, you're dedicated and you've got the gift. But Singer's style clearly doesn't match your unique brand of magic, so we decided that you'd probably be better off pursuing a different branch of wizardry.”
Sam blinked. That was probably the longest and most delicate combination of words he'd ever heard from Gabriel, and he found himself gaping wordlessly. Gabriel apparently took it as a sign that he wasn't making sense.
“What I'm saying is that Singer's sick of you blowing his shit up, so he sent you here to blow my shit up instead.”
“Hey, don't make that face. Singer likes you, but your gift doesn't quite fit his teaching style.”
“What's wrong with my... gift?” Sam asked, confused.
Gabriel chuckled. “Nothing's wrong, kiddo. You just need to learn how to embrace the chaos, and this is my area of expertise.”
“No shit,” Sam mumbled. “Are you really going to teach me?”
“Yep! And I swear, I'll do my best not to mock you. I probably will, but maybe it won't feel so bad if you know I'm trying to restrain myself.”
Gabriel winked at him, and somehow that was just the final straw. Having to look forward to a future with Gabriel only an arm's length away, Sam's stupid attraction still roaring inside him, felt like a death sentence. And knowing that Dean was probably still in bed, annoyingly unashamed by his sudden foray into queerness, while Sam would be forced to hide his own desires, just made him angry. And when Sam was angry, he tended to make poor life choices.
Which could probably explain why, instead of offering some kind of coherent reply, Sam surged forward, took hold of Gabriel's head with both hands and pulled him into a messy, desperate kiss. The fact that Gabriel started kissing him back enthusiastically almost immediately didn't change the fact that Sam was most likely ruining his future, and when he finally pulled away he sighed miserably.
“Well,” Gabriel said mildly. “This is gonna make things interesting.”
Sam frowned at him. “Interesting?! That's what you're calling this? Try catastrophic!”
Gabriel shrugged. “Unless your magic skills reflect your sex life, then no, I'll stick with interesting. Or maybe sexy, take your pick.”
“You're... not pissed off?”
“Why on Earth would I be?”
“Because!” Sam gibbered. “Because I'm your apprentice and because I ruin everything and because you're supposed to have kids and-”
“Woah, woah, woah, kiddo! Hold up, take a breath!”
Sam hid his head in his hands and did as instructed. “Ugh, this is a disaster,” he mumbled against his palms.
“Funny,” Gabriel said. “I was gonna say brilliant.”
Before Sam could look up, his elbows were knocked off his knees and he only just managed to right himself in time for Gabriel to slide into his lap, straddling him smoothly.
“What are you–” was all Sam could say before Gabriel kissed him again, deep and wet, making all thought fly right out of Sam's head, to be replaced with a delicious buzz of lust. He forgot all about how he was doomed and how this was bound to cause everyone massive amounts of pain in every way imaginable, because Gabriel's lips were hot on his skin, and as they made their way down Sam's neck he whimpered in surrender.
“See, the great thing about being the master is that I get to decide how to teach you,” Gabriel mouthed against Sam's jaw. “For example, did you know that some kinds of magic are achieved through sex?”
“Uhm... no?” Sam said, breathless.
“Well then. Lesson number one...”
* * *
Gabriel turned out to be much less annoying when you could shut him up with kissing. And as it turned out, Sam was very, very good at sex magic. Unsurprisingly, Gabriel was an excellent teacher in that field. What was surprising was that he was also a good teacher in other fields. Which was how Sam ended up completing his apprenticeship in chaos magic a handful of years later by leveling a horde of demonic fiends by the force of his mind alone. Gabriel claimed firmly that there was nothing more he could teach him after that. He also claimed it was the hottest thing he'd ever seen, so Sam decided not to argue. Even Dean was impressed, so Sam thought it was a decent enough way to earn his title of wizard.
Oddly enough, Gabriel hadn't stopped jumping Sam's bones even long after there was nothing more to be learned by way of sex magic. Sam had never questioned it, because every time it was more than he'd ever dared hope for. Gabriel wasn't an idiot, and there was no way he could be unaware that Sam's feelings for him went way past the physical, but Gabriel never brought it up, and Sam was too afraid of losing what they had to push for more.
So he almost fell off the bed one morning, still winded from another spectacular round of non-magic related sex, when Gabriel casually asked if Sam wanted to move in with him.
“I mean, you're here all the time anyway, you eat my food, you sleep in my bed, and a fully qualified wizard really shouldn't still be living behind the kitchens,” he babbled, making Sam's head spin.
“For how long?” Sam asked, delighted by the question, but otherwise confused. Even after several years Gabriel never stopped being a really complicated entity to Sam.
“How long? Well... as long as you can stand me, I assume.”
“But don't you have to go home at some point?”
Gabriel's face was completely blank with surprise as he stared at Sam. “I am home,” he said slowly.
“No, I mean home to your lands. You know, fulfilling all your lordship duties and stuff?”
A smile tugged at Gabriel's mouth, even as he was still frowning with confusion. “And... what would those duties and stuff be, exactly?”
“I dunno,” Sam shrugged. “Looking after your property, managing your affairs... getting married, making some heirs, that sort of thing.”
“Wow, you are such a peasant,” Gabriel snorted, and Sam was offended for all of two seconds, because that's how long it took for Gabriel to tackle him into the bed again. “You're an idiot,” Gabriel mouthed against Sam's chest.
“Way to get me in the mood,” Sam said weakly, despite the fact that Gabriel's attentions were in fact easily getting him in the mood again.
“Just saying it like it is, kiddo. You know jack shit about lordship,” Gabriel huffed before sitting up, sporting a wide, amused grin. “Taking care of my lands is what stewards are for. Only thing I'd need to make babies for would be to spoil them rotten. I got younger siblings by the buckets, trust me, there's no risk of the family estate falling into anyone else's hands in case of my untimely death.”
Sam blinked, his mouth opening and closing on nothing, as he tried to wrap his head around all this new information.
“But... the king–”
“The king has no say in how I live my life. I'm a member of court, yeah, but seeing as I chose a profession instead of just sitting on my bacon, I don't have to kiss his royal ass to keep the gold in my coffers,” Gabriel smirked. “As for marriage,” he continued, “I'm not sure where you and me are really going here, but if you're game I do know a couple of druids who don't care what the stuffy old priests say about matrimony and holiness and goddamn procreation ideals.”
Mind reeling, Sam sat up, shaking with sudden, wild hope. “Did you... did you just ask me to marry you?”
“If you don't mind going by the law of the land rather than the king, then yeah, guess I did.” For the first time Gabriel seemed unsure, and he tried to turn his head away, but Sam caught it with both hands.
“I don't mind. Sweet gods, I don't mind at all,” he breathed before pulling Gabriel in for a kiss, finally letting all his desperate love for the man bleed into it, not holding anything back. When they finally parted, Sam allowed himself a moment of half-delirious delight from how Gabriel's eyes almost crossed, dazed with pleasure
“That was a yes, then?”
“I'd have said yes if you'd asked me the first day we met.”
“Well damn, kiddo. Looks like we're both idiots,” he said, and Sam could only laugh.