There’d been a part of Sam that had been so very afraid that getting his grace back would mean that he was going to lose a part of himself. Lose the bits that made him Sam Winchester. He’d been kind of afraid that Sam would wash away and he’d just be Raziel again. Much as he wanted to be whole again, Sam didn’t want to lose this part of himself. He didn’t want to forget any of the lessons that being Sam had taught him.
This – this was nothing at all like what he’d feared.
Getting his grace back didn’t take away any part of who he was. Sam didn’t vanish.
In the same way that Gabriel would always be Gabriel, and yet he was also Loki, Sam was Raziel – he would always be Raziel – but he was also Sam. They weren’t separate. They had their differences, different aspects of his personality, yet they were all a part of the whole. Sam, Raziel, they were one in the same. It wasn’t the first time that he’d been called by a different name. What did it matter which one that people used? He was still himself and that was what mattered. He was just – more. Better.
A low laugh bubbled out of Sam, a sound of pure joy that echoed around the room and through his grace. The light of his grace was pulsing brightly inside his vessel. For the first time in so long the empty places inside of him were full. His grace was there, the light so bright and alive, and Sam didn't think about it before he did the one thing with it that he ached to do more than anything else.
His grace was reaching out for Gabriel even as Sam's body was turning. There was no hesitation on Gabriel's part – the feel of the other archangel's grace was right there, reaching out to him, wrapping around him, and Sam laughed happily before practically throwing himself into it, body and grace both. He didn't even feel it as their bodies tumbled together and hit the ground. All he could feel was the light of Gabriel inside of him and it was beautiful. It was glorious. This little taste of home, a piece of Heaven that could never be taken away from him.
Emotion traveled back and forth between them until Sam couldn't tell which was his and which was Gabriel's. Love – more love than he'd ever known could be directed his way. Sorrow, joy, relief. So many emotions that stole Sam's breath. Before Sam had left Heaven he'd known that what he and Gabriel had was special. They'd cared for one another, courted each other, and had been working slowly towards the bond that two angels could share. But they'd never gotten the chance to make it anything more serious.
Here, now, there was absolutely no doubt as to what either had felt. The love that had been growing before had bloomed into something huge and real and amazing. Sam's grace screamed at him to further the touch, to make that connection that so few angels made. It was screaming to bond with the one that he loved more than anyone or anything else. The only thing that held him back was that he wasn't going to let this be something so impulsive. Bonding was huge and important and it deserved to be done right. It wasn't going to be some grace-drunk impulse.
Eventually the two pulled back from one another. They didn't fully break the connection they had, letting their thoughts and feelings flow easily in a way humans couldn't even begin to understand.
When Sam finally opened his eyes, the sight that met him was both heartbreaking and glorious.
It'd been a long time since he'd seen an angel's true form. Longer still since he'd see the glory of the Messenger.
Most angels had considered Lucifer to be the most beautiful among them all. The Lightbringer, the Morningstar, brighter and more glorious than all the rest. Others claimed that Michael was the one of beauty, or Jophiel. For Sam, it had always been, and always would be, Gabriel. The Messenger had always been so beautiful to him. Far more beautiful than any others. It'd seemed fitting, really. He was the one that bore their Father's message. Somehow it just seemed right that those messages were delivered by someone so awesome – and he meant that in the traditional sense, not in the sense that Dean used the word.
Six wings of gold rose up from Gabriel's back as he pulled him and Sam up to their feet. The wings were a bit duller than Sam remembered them being. They were in desperate need of a grooming. But they still shone bright and beautiful as they spread out under his gaze, like Gabriel couldn’t quite resist preening for him.
Though Gabriel was packed into a vessel – the same as Sam was, now – it wasn't hard for the younger archangel to see Gabriel's true form shining through. The graceful, slender form, so much larger than any human could comprehend. He was shorter than Sam; their vessels were a rather accurate representation of their height differences up in Heaven. Gabriel had been made to be small and light so that he could be fast, as any Messenger should be.
The wings reached out for Sam, the left middle one curling in like it wanted to grab him, and Sam responded without even thinking about it by reaching out his own wings. The feel of them against his back, of moving them again, was a kind of joy that he couldn't explain. It made his grace sing to see the hazel wings that came into view. It was almost funny how parts of this vessel reflected his own true form. The hazel of his eyes, that strange changing color that Dean had always teased him about, shone now in his wings. Gabriel had used to love to sit by Sam and card his fingers through Sam's wings, trying to chase down and find which color they truly were. Brown, blue, green – they changed and shifted all the time.
“Raziel.” Gabriel breathed out. His eyes were shining with the same sort of joy that Sam was feeling, and his lips were curved up into the brightest and most open grin that Sam had seen on this vessel so far. That smile grew impossibly brighter as Gabriel changed his words, “Sam.”
Sam could feel his own smile growing. He brushed his wing against Gabriel’s and let their feathers tangle together. “Either one works. I'm both. Or, they're both me.”
“I've missed the hell out of you, you bastard.”
The words made Sam laugh again. He took a small step forward. “Still have such a way with words, I see.”
“You better believe it, bucko.” Gabriel's grin flashed into a smirk, one that was familiar and comforting, and yet also reminded Sam of something else. Something a bit different.
For just a moment Sam stood there and stared at Gabriel. Memories drifted to the forefront, things that were viewed in quite a different light now than they had been before. As Sam stared at his brother, his partner, he contemplated something for a moment. When he took a small step forward, Gabriel gave him a curious look. Sam just smiled at him, reassuring him. Then he took great pleasure – probably more than he should have – in letting his fist fly right into Gabriel’s face, the blow sending his partner backwards. He hadn’t done it enough to knock him down, just enough to throw him back a bit.
Gabriel recovered quickly and straightened himself back up, giving Sam an incredulous look. “What the hell, Razzy?”
“That’s for Mystery Spot.” Sam told him, calm and easy.
He watched Gabriel stumble a little and then pause before finally nodding. “Fair enough. But,” Quick as a flash, Gabriel lashed out, his own fist moving in a blow that sent Sam flying backwards. Even as Sam slammed into the wall, Gabriel was there, knocking his legs out from under him and sending him crashing to the ground while he jumped right on Sam. They ended up landing hard on the ground with Gabriel right over top of him, that solid little body pinning Sam’s down. They were pressed close, Gabriel straddling his waist as one hand clamped down over Sam’s throat and shoved his chin up while the other hand came to rest just by Sam’s shoulder and his topmost wing, bracing Gabriel up. Golden eyes flashed hot and dangerous as they glared down at Sam. “That was for leaving me, you little shit.” The hand on Sam’s throat tightened just a bit and shoved his chin up even more. “You ever do anything like that again and I’ll kick your ass when I find you – you hear me?”
Everything about Sam softened. One of Sam's biggest regrets about this whole thing was the pain he knew he'd caused Gabriel. It was something he'd spend eternity trying to make up for. Letting his throat go lax and his wings lay flat in a gesture of submission, he nodded.
Gabriel gave one last squeeze to Sam's throat. Then he dropped his head down and captured his lips in a kiss that melted Sam even more. When they finally pulled apart, both their eyes were glowing. Gabriel pulled his hand off Sam's throat and slid it up to cup his cheek, rubbing lightly with his thumb over Sam’s skin. “I missed you, Razzy. I missed you like crazy.”
“I'm sorry, Gabriel.” Sam's voice was low, full of the guilt that he had a feeling would never go away. “I just... I had to. I had to do it this way. If I hadn't you would've died and I just, I can't... I couldn't let that happen.”
The thumb on Sam's cheeks dropped down to his lips and cut off his words. “Shh.” Gabriel bent down and rubbed their noses together. “We'll figure it out, Razzy. You an me, we'll figure it out.”
Sam sighed into the touch and let his eyes drift closed. His tail lifted up and curled around Gabriel's leg, rubbing against his thigh, while the two of them let themselves get lost for a moment in the touch of one another.
Eventually, however, they had to get up.
Gabriel was the one to sigh and finally pull back. “Come on, kiddo.” Using his wings, he drew himself up to his feet and then held a hand out to Sam, who took it easily. “Let's get you back home. Your brother's probably ripping my place apart.”
A grimace crossed Sam's features and he tried to resist the urge to sigh. Yeah, getting back home was probably a good idea. He just, wasn't quite sure how it was going to go. Talking about all of this was one thing. Dean had been hesitantly supportive because it was what Sam wanted. That didn't mean that it was really something the hunter was all that happy with. Would he still be supportive once Sam came back? Would he be okay with all of this? It was almost embarrassing, just how important Dean's approval was to him. He'd always cared far too much what his siblings thought of him, but it was different this time. This was... this was Dean. The guy who had pretty much raised him. Or, at least, a part of him. Dean's approval meant a whole lot more to Sam than his other siblings did.
“It's gonna be okay.” Gabriel murmured. He wrapped his arms and wrings around Sam and pulled him in close. “It'll be all right, little spider.”
The comforting embrace reminded Sam briefly of a different time when he was young. Back before he and Gabriel had come close to what they were now; when they'd still been young and simply brothers. Gabriel had always looked out for him, ever since he'd been a tiny fledgling. He'd protected Sam then and it seemed it was still instinct to do it now. Sam let himself lean into that touch and absorb the warmth of it. Then he forced himself to pull back and to smile as if his grace wasn't throbbing with worry. “Let's get this over with.”
Hand in hand, the two spread their wings and flew.
It wasn't any real surprise to find Dean pacing the living room when they landed. The only thing that Sam did find surprising was that it didn't look like Dean had done any real sort of damage while Gabriel had been gone. The front door looked a little scuffed, but - ah, yes. Sam could feel the grace that Gabriel had used to make sure this place was locked up so that Dean wouldn't be able to leave while they were gone. He'd made sure dean was trapped here where he was safe. Sam sent a wordless pulse of thanks to Gabriel and got one of love in return.
To his credit, Dean only took seconds to realize that he was no longer alone. He spun around and his eyes were wide for one brief moment as he looked at them. There was a blast of relief that rolled off of him in waves before it was smothered by annoyance. A glare twisted his features and Sam had to fight not to grin. Dean always reacted to stress the same way. He got annoyed. It was just sort of his default setting. Sam had learned a long time ago how to read the relief or the joy underneath it, and the love that was threaded through it all.
“You son of a bitch.” Dean snarled at him. He marched forward and Sam didn't bother moving, knowing what was coming. He did, however, prepare himself, making sure that there was no damage when Dean's fist lashed out and slammed into his face. It didn't break Dean's hand, which normally it would have, but it didn't make Sam move all that much, either.
Dean didn't waste any time grabbing hold of Sam and yanking him in after that. He pulled him in close and hugged him in that way that they only seemed to do after someone had been hurt or had almost died. Or, in Dean’s case, actually died.
There was a large part of Sam that would never be able to feel like anything except a little brother when he was in Dean’s arms. It brought up so many memories – memories that his angelic memory made so much stronger. Times that Dean had held him close, reassuring him and keeping him safe, dropping that tough guy act for just a little while because it was what Sam needed and there was nothing more important in Dean’s world than Sam.
One of Dean’s hands settled on the back of Sam’s neck as they pulled apart. His brother held him in place and searched Sam’s face like he was trying to find something. Whatever he saw there had him lifting his chin just a little. “You got it back.”
Sam’s lips curved up into a smile he couldn’t quite help. He could’ve just told Dean yes or even explained how he got it all back. Instead, he brought his tail up and reached forward with it until he could wrap it around Dean’s leg.
The sound that Dean made was half shout and half shriek as he tried to jump back. It was definitely something that Sam would remember for the future to tease him about. Unfortunately for Dean, the tail on his leg didn’t let him get far, so when he jumped back he almost ended up toppling over, saved only by the wing that Sam reached out with and used to catch his brother’s back and stand him up.
Behind them, Gabriel was laughing hysterically, not even bothered when Dean glared at him. As soon as Dean realized it wasn’t working on Gabriel, he turned his glare to Sam and pointed a finger at him. “Dude, no using your freaky powers on me! You could’ve just said yes!”
“I didn’t use my powers.” Sam held his hands up in a gesture of innocence. Then he gave in and grinned. “I used my tail. Well, and my wings. I had to catch you with something so you wouldn’t fall.” He dropped his hands back down. Then he gave a soft squeeze to Dean’s leg with his tail that only served to make the hunter jump again. Luckily, he didn’t jump as bad this time.
Gabriel was still laughing as he came up to stand at Sam’s side. He slipped his arm around Sam’s waist and leaned in against his side, grinning cheekily at Dean. “You’ll get used to it, Deano. He likes to hold on with his tail. He uses it almost as much as he waves his hands about when he talks.”
The way that Dean was looking at them made it clear he wasn’t going to even try to get into how weird he found that. He didn’t try and move away from Sam’s touch, though. “So you got your mojo back. Someone feel like explaining how? Or, y’know, why the hell you felt the need to knock me out?” He directed that last part at Sam with another of his sharp glares.
Sam smothered a sigh. “Yeah. Let’s sit down, though. This might take a bit.”
That proved to be a good idea. It really did take a while for Sam to explain things once they were all sitting down. It was a hard story to tell, and not just because Dean didn’t react well to finding out his brother had been tortured. Sam had to make sure that he worded things just right – there were certain things that Dean really didn’t need to know and even a few things that Sam didn’t want to try and explain to Gabriel, either.
Dean did pretty well – mostly swearing and growling – until Sam got to the part where Michael had showed up wearing John Winchester.
“Dad?” Dean asked, eyes wide with shock. “He was wearing Dad?”
A sigh slid from Sam and he rubbed a hand over his face. “Yeah.” Behind him, his wings shuffled a little, showing his discomfort. “I don’t know. I don’t know what that means or what’s going to happen. I don’t… it doesn’t make sense that Michael would resurrect him and not leave him around afterwards. For all that Raphael’s done, I don’t, I can’t see Michael falling that far. He wouldn’t do harm to humans without cause and especially not to his vessel.”
“He wouldn’t.” Gabriel agreed, his voice a whole lot more firm than Sam’s was. “Michael remembers the old ways. He remembers how important vessels are. I don’t know where he’ll put your Dad, but I’m pretty sure we’ll find him somewhere.”
Sam and Dean shared a look. “Bobby’s.” They said together.
“Dad’ll go to Bobby’s.” Dean explained. “Weird shit goes down and he can’t find us? He’ll go to Bobby’s. They may not always get along but he knows we trust Bobby and he’ll probably figure that’s the best place for information on us.”
Sam nodded his agreement before adding on, “I’ll keep my eye out on the place to see if or when he shows up. Or we could go there, even. We’ve got, ah, quite a lot to explain to Bobby.” That was an understatement.
“Hey,” Dean said, perking up a little. “At least when we tell him, we can let him know we stopped it all. You’ve got your mojo back, so that means you’re not a vessel, right? You can’t do the shit they want.”
Even as Dean was speaking, both Sam and Gabriel were shaking their heads. “It won’t be that simple.” Gabriel said.
“Raphael’s bound and determined to find a way to open the Cage without the keys.” Sam added. He knew that better than anyone else here. He knew just how determined Raphael really was.
Dean leaned forward in his chair until he could rest his arms on his knees. His brows furrowed down and he pursed his lips, a surefire sign that he was thinking. It was a pose Sam had seen him take many a time when he was trying to figure out some sort of puzzle or another. “Is it possible?”
It was hard not to flinch. Sam knew where this question was leading and what would come next, yet he wouldn’t lie to them .They needed to know. “Yes.”
Beside him, Gabriel perked up a little. The other archangel obviously didn’t know how it could be possible. Which made sense, really. No one else knew how to open up the Cage except by using the seals. That was why this whole thing had started going down the way it had been .There were certain seals that had to be broken a certain way to open up Lucifer’s Cage. As far as any angels knew, that was the only way to let Lucifer out, barring intervention from their Father.
“How?” Dean and Gabriel asked at the same time.
This was where it was going to get hard. Sam bit his lip and carefully folded his hands in his lap. He met Dean’s gaze head on, refusing to back down or to say a word. He wouldn’t – he couldn’t.
He saw the frustration building in Dean’s eyes. In contrast to that, Gabriel let out a snort that didn’t hold as much annoyance as Sam had expected. “Give it up, Deano. He won’t tell you.” The look he gave Sam was both fond and amused. “Raziel always did like his secrets.”
“Yeah, well, keeping secrets aint exactly gotten us real far, has it?” Dean snapped. He didn’t look away from Sam and his next words were clearly directed at him. “This is the freaking apocalypse, Sam. We gotta be on the same team here. How’re we supposed to help you stop it from happening if we don’t even know what might happen? If we want any chance on winning, you gotta let us know what we’re up against here. No secrets.”
The command and anger in Dean’s voice had Sam reacting instinctively. He curled his wings in and lowered them a bit in a submissive gesture that Dean wouldn’t even be able to see. However, Gabriel could see it, and he sucked in a surprised breath. “Sam?”
Sam shook his head. It didn’t matter that he was an archangel – one of the most powerful beings on the planet – this was still Dean. Dean, his big brother, the man who’d raised him. He’d more than earned Sam’s respect a thousand times over. When push came to shove, Sam could stand his own, but Dean would always be like a father to him and that wasn’t going to change just because Sam got his grace back.
However, not even their bond was enough to make Sam give away secrets like this. “I’m sorry, Dean. I can’t.” At the frustrated look he got, Sam held out a hand long enough to quiet him. “I’m not doing this to piss you off or make this difficult. But this is one of those times where the less people that know, the better. Right now the only being aside from our Father that knows for sure how to open the Cage is me. I won’t tell – I think I proved that to Raphael. Not that he stands any chance against me now that I’ve got my grace back.” Holding out his hands, Sam tried to put what he felt into his words, tried to get his brother to understand. “Dean, I can’t… I gave up my home for this. I gave up my life. I let go of everything in the whole of existence just to protect these secrets and keep them safe. Even knowing the types of lives I was going to live, I still did it. Please don’t ask me to try and make that choice again.”
Dean huffed and threw himself back in his seat. He didn’t, however, try and pry it out of Sam. “What do we do, then?”
“Keep hunting, keep an eye out.” Sam answered immediately. “He’ll try eventually. Until then, there’s not a lot we can do.”
It wasn’t exactly the best of plans. Right now, though, it was all they had. Because Sam was right – there was nothing they could do until Raphael made his move. They could watch and wait and try and prepare themselves for the war that was coming. And make no mistake, there would be a war. Raphael wasn’t going to give up his plans so easily. Everything Sam knew about him made that clear.
He just had to hope that they would be able to stop him when the time came.