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Stand By You

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The sound of the Impala's engine was a familiar noise that had soothed Sam down into sleep for quite a few years of his life. For the longest time it'd been the best lullaby for him. His father had said more than once that Sam had been fussy sometimes as a baby, only able to be soothed down by Dean's rocking or by the sounds and vibrations of the Impala. As Sam got older, that didn't change. The car could always put him to sleep.

He'd thought that maybe his time at Stanford might've changed that. It'd take a while, but Sam had adjusted to sleeping in a real bed all the time and not random motels and the backseat of the car. Yet it took no time at all being back with his brother for him to fall into familiar patterns. When things got bad, when the pain of Jess was too fresh, when the headaches left behind from his visions kept him from sleep, when worry for their Dad tugged at him, Sam had still been able to find sleep in the comfort of the Impala.

All of that had changed the minute Sam found out about Dean's deal. He'd lost the safety and comfort that the Impala brought him.

Each time that Sam tried to fall asleep in the car, all he could think of was how much time he had left before this wouldn't happen anymore. He'd think of the time ahead of him where he wouldn't have Dean sitting in the driver's seat, tapping his thumbs to his music, softly singing lyrics under his breath in a voice so low that Sam could only sometimes catch a few words here and there. He wouldn't be able to curl up in the passenger's seat and just relax, knowing that his brother was behind the wheel and that he'd make sure they got safely wherever they needed to go.

Those thoughts were what plagued Sam as he closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against the cool glass of the Impala's window.

They were on their way to yet another case and Sam was so tired he wanted nothing more than to be able to just fall sleep here as he'd done so many times before. He just, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t get himself to let go enough to go to sleep. He couldn't shut off his brain. It kept taunting him with thoughts of what was to come. The things that were waiting in his future if he didn't find a way to save Dean from the demon deal. He was going to lose his brother - lose all of this - and Sam didn't know how he'd cope with that. He didn't know how he would be able to even breathe.

Dean had always been such a giant part of his life. Even when they weren't together, he was the stone that Sam built himself on. The person that he measured himself up to in every single way. The strength that he'd always relied on. He'd always known that all he had to do was call Dean and his brother might not answer, but he'd check his messages, and if something was wrong, he'd be there as quickly as he possibly could. He'd be there for Sam no matter what.

What was he going to do without that? How on earth was he supposed to live without his brother in his life? For so long Sam had defined himself by Dean, in so many different ways. How was he going to exist without him?

A soft shiver ran down Sam's body and he curled in a little tighter. He'd find a way to save him. He would! No matter what it took. Sam would make damn sure that he found a way to save his brother before it was too late. Dean had always done everything he could to take care of Sam. This time, it was Sam's turn to take care of him.

Whatever it took.


They arrived in town late and checked into their motel, neither one of them up for doing much of anything. When they got into their room, Sam fought back a groan and dropped his bag down onto the floor beside his bed. He stopped only long enough to pull off his jacket and flannel before dropping down as well, stretching his aching body out on the bed. The feel of the mattress after hours of not sleeping in the car was Heavenly. Sam drew in a heavy breath and let it out slowly.

That breath turned to a grunt when he felt Dean thump his foot when he walked past. “Hey, no crashing yet, Sammy. You’re gonna wake up pissed if you don’t get your boots and shit off first.”

“Don’ wanna.” Sam grumbled into the comforter. He was quite content to lie here and not move at all.

He heard Dean’s bag drop down and then the sound of bedsprings as, he assumed, his brother sat down on the other bed. “Yeah, well, suck it up, princess. I’m not gonna listen to you bitch in the morning cause you’re gritty and achy from sleeping in jeans.”

Ugh. The bastard was right. Sam knew it and he couldn’t help but scowl. Judging by the low chuckle from nearby, his brother saw that scowl and was enjoying it. Briefly Sam contemplated flipping him off. Then he decided it was too much energy. Especially when he was already going to have to sit up and actually put in the effort to take off his boots. Ever so carefully, Sam placed first one palm and then the other flat against the bedspread. Then, with a grunt of effort, he began to push. He only made it about halfway up before a sharp twinge in his back had him sucking in a breath and going completely still. Only sheer willpower kept him from dropping straight back down to the bed.

Sam wasn’t stupid enough to think that Dean wouldn’t have heard that sound or figured out what was going on. In a flash the older Winchester was up off the bed and over at Sam’s side. “Sammy?” He knelt down on the bed and the shift was enough to make Sam whimper, the muscles of his back seizing up and protesting with a furious cramp that had Sam gritting his teeth and fighting so hard not to cry out. Dean swore softly even as he slipped a hand under Sam to press a palm flat against Sam’s chest and brace him up. “All right. You’re all right, little brother. I got you. Let’s get you laid back down, all right?”

This was becoming a rather too-familiar scene between them lately. Sam had suffered from back pain since puberty; not a constant thing, just something that flared up once in a while. His father had always told him it came from growing too fast. When Sam hit his growth spurt, he’d hit it hard and sprouted up quickly. It kind of made sense that it made his back muscles ache. Over the years, he got sort of used to it, even when it got really bad. Dean was always there to help him.

But after Cold Oak, after Jake, it seemed like the backaches had returned with a vengeance, worse than ever before. That, too, made sense. The demon that made Dean’s deal had healed Sam – they hadn’t promised to heal him perfectly.

Together, with Sam moving carefully and Dean bracing him, the two got Sam lying down on his stomach once more. The effort that he’d been putting into getting up was forgotten now. Sam put himself in his brother’s capable hands and didn’t bother trying to protest. Soon enough, he’d have to learn how to do this on his own. For now he simply wanted to soak up the comfort and security of the few moments he had left.

“There you go.” Dean murmured. He slid his hand carefully out from under Sam and moved slowly, cautiously, making sure not to jostle the bed at all as he rose off of it. “Just hang on a second, Sammy. Lay there and try not to move.”

That was a command Sam was pretty sure he could follow. The pain in his back spread upwards, a wave of cramping that traveled over his whole spine. It felt like someone was grabbing right between his shoulder blades and was trying to yank his spine straight out. Pressing his face down into the bed, the younger hunter stifled a groan. God, it hurt!

He felt it when Dean got close again. A hand touched the bed right in front of his head to warn him and then slid forward to cup his forehead just enough to help him lift it ever so slightly off the bed. Though Sam had a hatred of taking pills, raised by a father who drilled into them that they couldn’t be slowed down by the grogginess that came with too strong medication, he didn’t hesitate now to open his mouth and take the pills that Dean popped in there. Sam swallowed them dry. It was a skill he’d learned from many such scenes like this one. Sometimes there was just no way for him to move enough to be able to get a glass of anything to his lips to help him swallow down meds.

Once he’d swallowed them, Dean carefully helped him lay his head back down. He smoothed back some of Sam’s hair so it wasn’t laying over his face. “Just lay there and let those kick in, all right? They’ll knock you on your ass quick enough and you’ll wake up feeling better just like you always do.”

It was true, too. The pain meds always worked well enough to knock him out for a few hours and by the time he woke up he generally felt a lot better. Sometimes the ache was still there but it wasn’t any worse than could be gained by working out a little too much. Sam licked his lips and mustered up enough control to say a low “Thanks, Dean.”

“Shut up.” His brother said fondly. Dean moved away from Sam’s head. A moment later, Sam could feel as his boots were being unlaced and slid off his feet. What came next would’ve been beyond embarrassing with anyone that wasn’t Dean. It was bad enough that Dean had to do it, really. Even though it’d happened before and Sam knew his brother didn’t care, it still caused Sam to blush when Dean’s hands curled over his hips and then slid enough to go gently under his stomach and undo the button and a bit of the zipper on his jeans. “Almost there, buddy.” Dean’s voice was low and easy, the same tone he adopted any time Sam was sick or hurt. His hands slid back out, over to Sam’s hips again, and this time Sam tried to lift just a little to help as Dean grabbed the belt loops on either side and used those to start to slide his pants down.

The pressure of trying to lift his hips made the next cramp worse and Sam squeezed his eyes shut. “Dammit.”

“Stop trying to help, you idiot.” There was a sharper edge to Dean’s words now, a warning that was pure big brother. “I told you, hold still!”

“S-Sorry.” Sam stammered past gritted teeth.

His pants were pulled off and dropped somewhere off to the side. Then came the moment Sam was waiting for, the one thing he knew would help better than anything else. Dean gently settled his weight down onto the bed right up near Sam’s shoulder and then he lifted a hand and laid his palm flat against Sam’s spine. With Dean’s upper half reclined against the headboard and his legs now stretched out alongside Sam, it allowed him just enough reach to be able fit the heel of his hand a few inches below Sam’s shoulders and push, just a little, rubbing down over that knot that sat between his shoulder blades, and then carefully draw his hand back up.

They’d discovered how soothing that gesture was back when all this first started and it hadn’t lost its potency in the years since then.

“All right, Sammy, you know the drill here. Just relax and breathe for me. I hope you don’t gotta pee cause there’s no way you’re getting up for at least eight hours and I’m sure as shit not changing a wet bed.”

Sam’s small smile was hidden by the blankets. He blinked his eyes open and saw Dean’s jean clad thigh in front of his face. “You’d do it.”

The sound Dean made was somewhere between a scoff and a snort. “Like hell I would.”

Both of them knew that Dean would. Or, really, he’d figure out an alternative. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d had to get a bit creative when Sam’s back wouldn’t let him move.

What am I going to do when he’s not here anymore? Sam thought to himself. How the hell am I going to do any of this without him?

Those were the thoughts that plagued him as he finally drifted down into sleep. They were the thoughts that always plagued him anymore.


The sound of the radio woke Sam the next morning. He woke up to the sound of it playing loudly beside his head and he had to fight back a groan. The pain was mostly gone, well enough that he was able to draw in a breath with only a small twinge of pain in his muscles that he knew would probably work out once he sat up and stretched out.

Sam opened his eyes, trying not to sigh, as the next lyric belted out right next to his head.

Heat of the moment…

Chapter Text

By the time it was all said and done, the pain that Sam had felt in his back during the start of the case was nothing compared to the pain he felt inside of his chest at the end of it. After being trapped inside this time loop and forced to watch his brother die over a hundred times, after that final death and the six months that came after, Sam didn’t think there was anything that could ever hurt him quite like this.

Not until he shoved a stake through what he was so sure was the fake-Bobby and had to watch as the man’s body lay on the floor and didn’t vanish as he’d expected it to. Sam stood in the middle of the Mystery Spot, the one place in the world he had never wanted to see again, and stared down at the body below him that he’d been sure was another trick, another illusion. Yet Bobby wasn’t moving. He was lying there completely still and Sam thought he might be sick. Had he... had he been wrong? Oh, God, had he been wrong?

“Bobby?” Sam croaked out. There was no movement, though. Nothing changed. “Bobby? Bobby!”

Something tight built inside Sam’s chest. He felt it growing, felt it building, a scream that was threatening to break free, to shred him apart on its way out. The rage that he’d been using to hold himself together since Dean’s last death was starting to dissipate and Sam could feel each and every crack, each part of himself where he was barely held together and where he began to fall apart as he looked down at the body of the man who had been more of a father to him than his own.

All of a sudden the body on the ground shimmered and faded away. Instant relief hit Sam – I was right – and then the stake came shooting up from the ground, flying over Sam’s shoulder.

When Sam turned around he found himself face to face with the Trickster once more. The being was standing there holding the stake over his shoulder where he’d caught it. In contrast to Sam’s obvious emotional turmoil, the being grinned at him. “You’re right; I was just screwing with you.” He brought the stake down and tilted it, pointing at Sam with it. “Pretty good though, Sam. Smart. Let me tell you, whoever said Dean was the dysfunctional one has never seen you with a sharp object in your hands.” The stake twirled and the Trickster pursed his lips and gave a head shake, pacing off to the side. “Holy Full Metal Jacket.”

It was too much. Too much, too quickly, and Sam couldn’t bring back his earlier rage. All of the temper he’d felt when he came here was just gone. All the plans he’d built to take this being down, to hurt him, to make him pay for what he’d done, all of it was gone. In its place was something that Sam couldn’t quite put a name on. Grief, maybe. Whatever it was, it hollowed him out, left room for nothing else. “Bring him back.” Sam said softly.

The Trickster gave him a curious look. “Who, Dean?” As if there’d be anyone else they were talking about. “Didn’t my girl send you flowers? Dean’s dead. He aint coming back. His soul’s downstairs doing the hellfire rumba as we speak.”

“Just take us back to that Tuesday – ah, Wednesday – when it all started.” Sam begged him. He didn’t care about pride anymore. “Please. We won’t come after you, I swear.”

“You swear.” The Trickster’s voice made it clear just how little he believed that.

But Sam meant it. He’d promise him anything right now. “Yes.”

It must’ve been clear just how much he was willing to give right then. The Trickster watched him carefully. “I don’t know.” He said slowly. “Even if I could...”

“You can.” Sam interrupted.

“True.” The Trickster shrugged. Then his expression turned a bit more serious; far more serious than Sam had ever seen it. “But that don’t mean I should. Sam, there's a lesson here that I've been trying to drill into that freakish Cro-Magnon skull of yours.”

“Lesson? What lesson?”

“This obsession to save Dean? The way you two keep sacrificing yourselves for each other? Nothing good comes out of it. Just blood and pain.” He took a few steps closer. “Dean's your weakness. And the bad guys know it, too. It's gonna be the death of you, Sam.” Smiling in a way that was almost sad, the Trickster held his hands out on either side of him and took a few steps back. “Sometimes you just gotta let people go.”

This wasn’t the first time that Sam had ever heard those words. Sam got it – he did. It just didn't change anything. It didn't matter how many times people said that he needed to learn to let go of his brother or that he wasn't going to be able to save him or anything like that. None of it matter. It wasn't as if Sam could just sit back and say 'oh well' and wait for his brother to die. That wasn't how he was made. That wasn't who he was.

Dean was in this mess because of Sam. Because Sam had been soft and he hadn't been able to kill a man who was clearly trying to kill him. Dean had made that deal to save Sam – and to save himself a little, too. Sam knew that it wasn't just for him that Dean had done it. Yet it didn't take away from the fact that Sam was the one that should be dead. Dean shouldn't have to suffer in hell just to save Sam's life. And there was no way Sam could just sit idly by while his big brother was hell-bound. If there was some way, any way that Sam could save him, he was going to do it. He would do whatever he had to. Why didn't anyone understand that?

Swallowing down the lump in his throat, Sam forced his voice to work, to utter the only words that really mattered here. “He's my brother.”

For a second it looked like something flashed over the Trickster’s face. Whatever it was, it was there and gone again quickly, and his previous smirk was back. “Yup.” He said easily. “And like it or not, this is what life's gonna be like without him.”

Sam closed his eyes and fought back the nausea that welled up. It felt like something inside of him was breaking, ripping apart. All the walls he’d put up to survive these past six months just fell away. Sam didn’t care how desperate it made him look. He didn’t care what this trickster thought of him. “Please. Just,”  Opening his eyes, Sam didn’t fight the tears, letting them slip silently from his eyes to burn their way down his cheeks. He looked right at the Trickster and let everything he felt show in his eyes. “Please.” It was all he could say. The only words that he could make himself say.

He hadn’t expected to get anything more than exasperated response from the Trickster. He definitely hadn’t expected to see him freeze in mid step, eyes going wide and his mouth dropping open. “Holy shit.” The Trickster breathed out. He slowly lowered his foot to the ground and straightened himself up, staring right at Sam. “You’ve got to be shitting me.”

Sam watched him, unsure as to what was going on. “What?”

The uncertainty Sam felt turned to something akin to fear when the Trickster suddenly strolled forward. Before Sam got the chance to try and move away, he found himself being caught by surprisingly strong hands. The Trickster’s hands closed over his cheeks and yanked Sam’s head down until the two were face to face, eye to eye. Sam tried to jerk back only to find that he had no chance in yanking away from this being’s strength. All he could do was hold there as golden eyes stared right into his. Something warm washed over Sam, chasing away the chill that had been a part of him since this whole case started, washing away the pain and fatigue and even the bit of hunger that had been clawing at his stomach, leaving him feeling fresh and almost revitalized.

Then suddenly the warmth was gone and so were the Trickster’s hands. Sam almost fell forward as he was abruptly released.

By the time he caught his balance and straightened back up, the Trickster had moved away and was pacing the far end of the room. “You’ve got to be kidding me. You?” He spun back towards Sam and glared at him. “Seriously? You?”

“What about me?”

The Trickster threw his hands up in the air and tilted his head to glare up at the ceiling. “All the vessels in all the world and it had to be this one?” His glare dropped back down and fixed right on Sam. “I should’ve guessed. No one else was ever as good at driving me insane.”

Had this guy gone insane somehow? Was that even possible? Could creatures like this go insane? Sam furrowed his brow and watched the being in front of him with just a hint of worry. “What are you talking about?”

The Trickster startled a little, almost like he’d forgotten Sam was in the room, or that Sam was capable of speaking. The look he gave the hunter was sharp, eyebrows drawn down and his mouth pressed tightly shut. Then he blew out a breath and shook his head. “That’s for me to know and you to find out, kiddo.” With no more warning than that, he lifted his hand and snapped.


“Promise me I’ll be back in time…”

Sam’s eyes snapped open. The music played around him as he lay there for a moment and stared up at a ceiling he’d had memorized – one he would always be able to recognize. No, his mind whispered. No, it can’t be. Did he really…?

Gotta get back in time…”

Slowly, hesitantly, Sam sat up. What he found waiting for him had his heart going still in his chest. The room. He was back in the room. That stupid fucking motel room. And that meant… that meant that he…

Sam’s eyes went wide as he caught sight of his brother standing casually in front of him, brushing his teeth. “What, you gonna sleep all day?” Dean asked him. The words were full of a familiar teasing – one that Sam had been sure he was never going to get to hear again. One that would’ve irritated him once. Now it was one of the most beautiful sounds that Sam had ever heard. Something on Sam’s expression must’ve showed how off kilter he felt because Dean responded as he always did – with humor. “I know, no Asia. This station sucks.”

The radio continued to sing beside Sam. “On a roll of the dice.

Sam couldn’t let himself believe it. Not yet. This seemed like some kind of cruel trick – something the Trickster was very capable of. Turning his head, the hunter looked at the clock, needing to see the word there, needing to make sure. When he saw the ‘WED’ there, his heart gave a lurch. “It's Wednesday.”

“Yeah, usually comes after Tuesday.” Dean said, looking at him with just a hint of worry. Then he gestured towards the radio with his toothbrush. “Turn that thing off.” Turning back to the sink, he began to rinse off his toothbrush.

For one split second Sam just sat there. Then, as it all really started to sink in – that was his brother over there, it was Dean, he was really here! – Sam threw the covers off and shoved himself off the bed. He closed the distance between him and his brother in a flash and yanked Dean into a hug the instant he got there. He could feel as his brother went tense and then as his arms hesitantly came up to hug Sam back. Hugs weren’t really their thing. Not unless someone was hurt or dead or dying. Which was the case here, Dean really had been dead. Only Dean seemingly didn’t know that.

“Dude, how many Tuesdays did you have?” Dean asked.

Closing his eyes, Sam sighed, letting himself just feel his brother’s presence for the moment. “Enough.”

Sam had no idea why it was the Trickster had agreed to this. He didn’t know why on earth they were back here when it was obvious Sam hadn’t learned what the Trickster wanted him to learn. And what had all that been there at the end? What had made the Trickster react to Sam like that? It was almost like he… like he knew him. But aside from the last time they’d tried to kill him, they’d never met this creature before. Sam was sure of it. So what on earth was going on?

Feeling his brother in his arms, Sam decided it didn’t matter. None of it mattered. He was here and so was Dean and right now, that was what was important. He could think about the rest of it later, once he’d had enough of simply drinking in Dean’s presence. Seeing him, hearing him, knowing that he was really here. Sam had spent the last six months without any of these things. He wasn’t going to waste a moment of time now.


Somewhere else, somewhere that didn’t technically exist in any reality, someone else was asking some questions of their own. Though nowhere near as calmly as Sam was.

Gabriel – the archangel who’d been hiding as a trickster for quite a long time now – gave a furious growl as he paced through the living room of his little hideaway. This was the only place in existence that Gabriel was free to go and truly let down his guard for a little while. It was the only place that offered him any real sanctuary from the outside world. Here, he didn’t have to pretend to be someone he wasn’t. He didn’t have to fight so hard to keep his true self hidden. And he didn’t have to work to keep his temper under control out of fear of his angelic powers showing through.

That last part was the main reason he was here right now. Because there was no way Gabriel was going to be able to keep himself under control. Not after what he’d just seen. Not after everything that he’d just felt.

For countless years now Gabriel had been on this great big mud ball living among humans, hiding out from Heaven, and never once stopping the search that he sent him down here. Never once had he ever allowed himself to give up the hope that he would one day find Raziel. The letter his brother had left for him was carefully set away here in this sanctuary with his most prized possessions and he’d read it over and over. There was a promise in there that Gabriel would find Raziel one day. That was something the young archangel held on to.

He held on to that hope through the thousands of lonely years and empty nights. He held on to it the first time that he felt that small flare of grace, just barely there, and flew as fast as he could only to find that the body the grace had inhabited was already cooling, the life inside of it already gone. Gabriel held on to that hope as he went through the same thing three more times over the years, always finding the body that Raziel had been born into either moments or even hours after its death.

But in all the times that Gabriel had envisioned finding his brother, it hadn’t been anything like this.

When Gabriel had finally ended his lesson against Sam Winchester and brought them both to the Mystery Spot to talk, he’d gone there with the hopes of maybe being able to stop what was coming. If he could just teach Sam to let go, to move on, maybe when Dean actually died his little brother wouldn’t go off the rails and leave himself open for the manipulation that was going to be headed his way. Gabriel might not have been home in a long time but that didn’t mean that he didn’t know what was going on. He had a connection or two that had warned him about the apocalypse plans coming to a head. Then he’d met the vessels and he’d instantly recognized them for what they were.

Or, he’d thought he had.

“Shit.” Gabriel grumbled to himself. He covered his face and rubbed at it in a very human gesture of frustration. Then, with a disgusted sigh, he threw himself down onto the couch and kicked his feet up on the coffee table.

When he’d seen that tiny flare of grace in Sam Winchester’s eyes while the hunter pleaded for the life of his brother, already breaking down Gabriel’s resolve, he’d been stunned completely. He’d done the only thing he could do and he’d grabbed the kid, yanking him in close so he could get a better look, so he could see how into him where the little bit of grace that was Raziel had acted as a human soul and enabled this life to be born.

Fear and elation both had spurred Gabriel to snap Sam back, to break the time loop and send him back to that Wednesday where Dean was still alive, and it had sent the archangel flying here where he could safely vent his feelings.

Raziel was alive. He’d found him. He’d found him. Everything else aside, that one thing echoed through Gabriel, making his grace sing in a way it hadn’t since he’d felt his brother Fall. It was like there was a part of him that was coming back to life after being dead for so long. Raziel was alive! Gabriel had found him!

And he’d been born into the vessel for Lucifer – the human who was destined to break the final seal and set Lucifer free from his prison.

Sam and Dean Winchester had been destined for this for a long, long time. Not by name, exactly, but their birth, the birth of two brothers who would help to bring about the End. Their fates had been foretold since Lucifer’s fall. Gabriel doubted that it was chance that Raziel was in this body, or that Gabriel had found him now. Nothing his little spider did was ever simple chance.

The question was – what was Gabriel going to do about it?

Chapter Text

It took almost a week before Sam finally started to feel normal. He kept waking up each morning expecting to be back in that room again with Heat of the Moment playing. He’d done the same thing during those six months that no longer existed. Then, when the realization hit that it wasn’t playing, the grief would come in and swamp him until something clued him in to his brother’s presence. Either a snore, his breathing, or turning his head and seeing him there.

For the most part, he was doing okay. He kept himself together and tried not to let Dean see how he was feeling. The last thing his brother needed was to be dealing with Sam’s problems. That didn’t mean that Dean didn’t notice, though. It didn’t escape Sam’s attention that Dean didn’t go anywhere without either bringing Sam along with him, and he made sure to always be there when Sam woke up. The one morning that he woke up before Sam, he didn’t even leave to go get coffee or breakfast until Sam was awake and able to go with him. Dean may not have known about the six months that Sam spent without him, but he was smart enough to know there were things that Sam wasn’t telling him, and that the only real thing he could do to help was be there.

It helped quite a bit. By the time a week had passed, Sam felt semi normal again. He felt like he might be able to let Dean out of his sight without the fear that he was going to die while Sam wasn’t there.

Dean must’ve noticed the change, because that night he dragged Sam out to a bar with him “Just for some fun, Sammy. You remember fun, right?”

That was how Sam came to find himself sitting at a table in a bar while his brother tried to hustle a bit of money off some of the idiots playing pool.

As always, it was a bit amusing to watch Dean hustle. He was way too good at making himself look like an idiot to other people. They took one look at that easy grin, the slight swagger to his step, and they heard that low drawl he could get when he was lazy or drunk – or in the mood to play a part – and they just assumed that’s all there was to him. A pretty face and pretty word. No one ever seemed to look deeper than that. If they had, they might’ve learned what Sam had always known. That his big brother was one of the best, kindest, smartest people he’d ever known. Dean was a good man – one of the best. He didn’t deserve the fate coming towards him.

Caught up in observing his brother, and watching for threats, Sam didn’t really register the pretty blond that was making her way towards him. She didn’t ping on his ‘danger’ radar. Stupid mistake. A pretty face didn’t make someone less dangerous. That was a lesson he really needed to remember

It wasn’t until she was right by his table and had bumped into him that he looked up. “Well now, what’s a handsome man like you doing all alone over here?” She asked him.

Sam took one look at her face and felt his whole body clench tight in immediate response. It wasn’t that she was pretty – though she most definitely was, with a short curvy body and those waves of blondish gold hair – it was that he knew that face. Those golden eyes, that half smirk. It looked different but it was the same exact face he’d just spent six months hunting. “Trickster.” Sam snarled out. His hand reflexively twitched as if to reach for a weapon at the same time that his eyes sought out his brother, making sure that he was still there.

The woman caught Sam’s wrist in a grip that was a lot stronger than it seemed. “It’s Loki, actually. Though like this you can just call me Lo.” She winked at him while sliding closer to his table and then slipping down into the seat right next to him. “You’re getting better at this! You recognized me in no time at all!”

Sam tried very hard not to think about the way her fingers moved over his wrist, one delicately tracing his pulse point. Obviously she could feel his heart hammering away. Humor lit her golden eyes and she gave him that smirk he’d recognize anywhere, on a male or female vessel. “Calm down, sweetheart. I’m just here to chat.” She patted Sam’s wrist and then drew her – his? – hand back. “I figured it’d be easier like this. Less chance of big bro over there recognizing me. He’s not as observant as you are.” Somehow, she seemed a bit proud of that, grinning right at him.

“What’re you doing here?” Sam hissed at her. Better yet, why was he just sitting here talking to her? Him? Whatever! The Trickster – Loki – was in a female body and Sam didn’t care, he was sticking to the pronouns that made sense.

She grinned broadly at him and sat back in the chair, one long leg crossing over the other in a way that put them perfectly on display, showcased nicely by the short skirt she wore. “Humans.” She gave an exasperated roll of her eyes. “Weren’t you listening? I said I was here to chat, that’s all. Just a nice talk between friends.”

“We are not friends!”

Lifting one hand, Loki laid it over her heart. “Sammy! You wound me with that, you truly do.”

Sam growled under his breath and fought back the urge to threaten to do more than just wound her.

As if she could read his thoughts, and it disturbed him to realize that she very well might be able to, she flashed him yet another of her grins. “You really should work on those anger issues of yours, big boy. They’re gonna get you in trouble one day.”

“Pardon me if I’m not feeling kind.” Sam spat back. “You murdered my brother over a hundred times. That tends to make me a bit cranky.”

Instead of bothering her, his snark just made her let out a low, melodic laugh. “See, this is why I like you. You’re not like most hunters I’ve met, Sammy.”

He grit his teeth and growled again. “It’s Sam.”

She continued on as if he hadn’t interrupted her. “Most of them just hunt down monsters and that’s it. They wouldn’t talk to me. They’d just go for the nearest weapon. They see black and white. But you – you see black, white, grey, and all the colors of the rainbow. That’s rare.”

“Thanks, so glad to know monsters like me. I’ll be sure to share that with Dean right after he stakes you.”

Loki’s grin grew a bit wider and just a bit dangerous in a way that very much did not make Sam’s heart beat faster. It was just fear, he told himself. That was why he was reacting like that. It was fear that made his heart beat faster.

“You try it all you want, sweetheart.” Loki snapped herself up a fruity looking red drink and took a small sip off it, eyes twinkling merrily overtop the glass. “It hasn’t worked so far, but who knows maybe you’ll get lucky.” The way she wiggled her eyebrows made the meaning of those words clear.

Sam clenched his hand down on his beer and fought to contain his temper. Blowing up at her in the middle of a bar wasn’t the way to go. There were too many civilians in here. Too many people who could get caught in the crossfire if things went south. He held on to his temper with an iron control and settled for glaring at her instead of punching her. “What. Do. You. Want.” He bit off each word like it was something foul.

“Just wanted to check in on my favorite hunter, see how you were doing, all that jazz.”

“How I’m doing? How I’m doing?” Leaning forward, Sam glared even harder, his whole body almost vibrating. “I just had to watch my brother die over a hundred times, live six months without him, and now I’m back here trying not to finch every time he gets out of my sight or go into a panic when I wake up and don’t see him right away. All the while, I’m still scrambling to find a way to get him out of his deal after all the time I wasted in your little time loop. And you want to know how I’m doing?”

To his surprise, Loki actually grimaced a little, her smile faltering just the slightest bit. “About that.” Holding her glass in one hand, she lifted a finger and ran the tip of it around the rim of her glass. “I’m not sorry for trying to teach you a lesson, because you need to learn to let your brother go. You’re not going to be able to save him and you need to come to terms with that before he dies and you end up right back where you were when I killed him. However,” She held up a hand when she saw he was about to protest. “I am sorry that I had to hurt you so much. I didn’t want to, but it seemed like the only way to make you understand.”

“Trust me, I understood. It just doesn’t change anything.” Sam said bluntly. “What I don’t understand is why you even care.” It was something that had been bugging Sam for a while now and he couldn’t figure it out. “Why the hell do you care so much if I try and save my brother’s life? What are the lives of two humans to you?”

Sam didn’t really expect any sort of answer. Loki just didn’t seem the type to give out answers without getting something in return. So it surprised Sam completely when the being looked at him without any sign of her previous smile and said “There’s something big in the works, something I can’t tell you about right now. Dean’s death is just the first step. I can’t stop that, not anymore. Not once he made that deal. But if I could get you to let go of your brother without all the fuss and homicidal rage, there’s a chance I could stop the second part of it.”

Something hard settled in the pit of Sam’s stomach. Suddenly, his beer didn’t taste all that good. He didn’t know why it was that he believed the creature in front of him. Loki had done nothing to inspire any sort of trust in him. Yet for some reason, Sam found that he did believe her. That was scary all on its own. What was even scarier was the implication behind Loki’s words. “Why can’t you tell me?”

“It’s a long story.” Loki said. “One better suited for a later time.”

As If to prove that point, the crowd around them parted a bit and Dean came mock-stumbling up to the table, still obviously playing a bit of a part for the guys he’d left behind. Guys, Sam noted, who were watching Dean carefully.

It sort of startled Sam and worried him a bit that he’d stopped paying attention to Dean while talking with Loki.

Dean took one look at the girl beside Sam and startled before quickly recovering and flashing one of his best smiles. “Oh hey there. My bad – I didn’t realize you had company, Sammy.” It was obvious by the look on his face that he hadn’t noticed her before, which threw Sam a little. How had he not? Dean usually has a good eye for anyone that came near his brother, especially a pretty girl. It was like some big brother/hunter radar that had never failed. Unless...unless Loki had been making sure no one saw them. A grin from her showed that he was right on that. Get out of my head, Sam thought, knowing now that she could hear him.

You wish, gorgeous. Her voice was sweet and full of laughter inside his head.

“It’s fine, I was just leaving.” Loki said before Sam could come up with anything to say. She was flashing a smile of her own and it was sultry and full of promise in a way that made Sam shiver. She winked at him as she leaned forward – her arms pushing together just enough to give him a clear view of cleavage in her low cut top – to set her cup down on the table. She pushed up to her feet then, just about Sam’s height with him still sitting down. Much to his surprise, she lifted a hand and trailed her nails over his cheek until she could catch his chin and hold him in place for a quick kiss that left him too stunned to even respond. When she pulled back, she winked. “I’ll see you around, big boy.”

As soon as she was gone, Dean was grinning broadly at Sam and taking her empty seat. “Way to go, Sammy! I knew you had it in you.”

Sam didn’t say anything to ruin the proud look on his brother’s face. He didn’t know why he didn’t tell Dean that that had been the trickster.

As he listened absently to his brother talk, Sam wondered what the hell Loki was playing at here, and what was this big thing that he was talking out? Better yet, why had Sam sat here and listened instead of trying to stake him or calling out to Dean?


If Sam thought that was going to be his only contact with the trickster, he was quickly proven wrong.

They were at Bela’s apartment, which was disturbingly empty of both her and the Colt, when Sam’s phone buzzed in his pocket at almost the same time the room phone started to ring. While Dean answered that, Sam pulled his phone out, wondering who the hell would be contacting him. No one ever text him.

He was surprised to see the name Lo on his screen.

Lo: You might wanna clear on out of there, pronto

Sam: What’re you talking about?

Sam stopped paying attention to his phone as he focused on the call Dean was on, which sounded like it was with Bela. “Take the only weapon we have against an army of demons and sell it to the highest bidder.” Dean was saying. Yeah, it was Bela he was talking to.

Something about this whole thing felt odd to Sam. Odd and wrong. He couldn’t quite place his finger on it, though.

“I know I’m gonna stop you.” Dean said. There was a pause and then Dean’s face took on that slightly harder look, one that Sam knew spelled danger for the one who had pissed him off. “Oh, I’ll find you, sweetheart. You know why? Because I have absolutely nothing better to do than to track you down.”

Whatever she had to say to that made Dean uncomfortable. His eyes shot to Sam, who gave him a curious look.

The next second everything went to hell. The door burst open and the room was filled with cops, all of whom had their weapons pointed at Sam and Dean. Sam found himself on the ground, hands being cuffed behind him, and Dean lying down beside him. Somewhere above them, one of the officers started to read them their rights. “Sam and Dean Winchester, you have the right to remain silent…”

Son of a bitch. Sam thought of Loki’s text and growled a little to himself. Would it hurt you to be a little clearer? He thought, hoping that, if the god was close enough to watch he was also close enough to hear him. It would’ve taken just a few more seconds to type out that cops were coming.

Not just any cops, either. Sam and Dean both looked up as the officer was reciting their rights to them, only to find the very last person either one of them wanted to see. Victor Henriksen stood over them with a smug smile on his face. “Hi guys.” He said far too cheerfully. “It’s been a while.”

Sam and Dean looked at one another again. They were screwed. At almost the same time, they closed their eyes and laid their heads back down, each one of them cursing someone different in their minds. Sam wasn’t quite sure, but he thought he heard the echo of laughter in the back of his mind.


Watching the Winchesters was proving to be a test in strength for Gabriel. Now that he'd gotten that glimpse inside of Sam and he knew who he was, who he truly was, the biggest part of Gabriel wanted nothing more than to just be right there at his side. To be with him and never leave. He wanted to stand there and protect Sam from any more harm. When he looked at him, he saw both parts. The angel he'd once been and the man that he was. They were both the same and yet Gabriel knew very well that they weren't. He couldn't go in and treat Sam the way he would've treated Raziel. Sam didn't remember being Raziel – he didn't remember Gabriel.

In some ways, Sam was different than the archangel that Gabriel had known, and yet at the same time it seemed like he was still the same, just... more. More like the being Raziel could've been without the restrictions of Heaven. He was amazing. Gabriel had been drawn to him when he'd just known him as Sam Winchester. It was why he'd tried so hard to help him, trying to teach him a lesson that would save not only the world but himself as well. That draw was only stronger now that he knew the truth.

Seeing the person that Sam was, seeing the person that Heaven and Hell were trying to make him into, made Gabriel's grace ache with the need to play the part of protector. He wanted to yank Sam away from all of them and keep anyone from hurting him ever again. But he couldn't.

Raziel's letter had warned him that he would have to wait to tell Sam the truth. He'd charged Gabriel with protecting him in a sense. That was something that Gabriel took very seriously. He wasn't going to let his brother down. But he couldn't just charge in there wings blazing. He had to do this right. There was a whole hell of a lot at stake here and he and Sam didn't have the trust between them that Raziel and Gabriel did.

Especially after what Gabriel had just put him through. Granted, he'd thought that it would be the best way to help him, but he hadn't enjoyed it. Even before he'd known who Sam really was, he hadn't enjoyed it. It wasn't fun for him to hurt good people. Normally his tricks were saved for the douchebags of the world. Even with his rampaging anger problems, Sam didn't fit that description. If anything, he was too damn good underneath it all.

Gabriel gave a sigh and slouched down into his couch. He was hiding out in one of his little safe havens, keeping an eye on his Winchester without having to actually be there by him. Less risk of getting caught this way. It wasn't hard to snap up a TV that was specially made to watch over Sam. Kind of like his own personal television show revolving around the Winchesters.

He'd had to fight earlier today to keep from going to them when they got trapped in that police station and were surrounded by demons. That urge only got stronger when that bitch Ruby showed up. Gabriel had actually snarled at his TV and felt his wings ruffling up behind him with the urge to go completely archangel on her ass.

But they were out of there now. Out of there and mostly safe at their motel. Gabriel ached for what he knew Sam had to be feeling as he watched Ruby tell them about what had happened once they were gone.

He waited until Ruby left before he picked up the phone he'd made for himself earlier. A few keystrokes later and he watched as the Sam on screen looked down at his hip where his cell phone was vibrating.

Lo: U shouldn't trust her. She's bad news

He watched as Sam scowled down at his phone. The kid typed and then Gabriel's phone was buzzing in his hand.

Sam: As opposed to trusting you?

Lo: Least I'm not setting u up

He watched as Sam snorted down at his phone. The younger Winchester lay back on his bed, ignoring his brother, who was gathering up things like he was going to go shower. There was a tension there that was palpable even through a TV screen. Both men were upset by what had happened and by the things that had come to light.

Gabriel debated a second before he sent his next message.

Lo: Even when I hurt u it was only 2 help u

Lo: shes not helping u shes using u

Sam: You don't know what you're talking about

Sam: Why didn’t you help?

Gabriel rolled his eyes.

Lo: Going up against Lilith? Not smart.

Sam: Someone has to

Lo: Doesnt mean it needs 2 b me

Lo: Or u

A low growl erupted from Gabriel as he watched Sam toss the phone down the bed with a determined look on his face. The kid wasn't going to listen to him. He was too caught up in all this; too wrapped up in everything just the way they wanted him to be. He wasn't going to listen to a trickster that had killed his brother and that he probably wasn't sure he shouldn't still be trying to kill. Nothing Gabriel said was going to sink in.

Fine. Never let it be said that Gabriel couldn’t handle a challenge.

Whether Sam liked it or not, Gabriel was going to protect the hunter. He'd made a promise. And if that meant getting his hands a bit dirty here, well, it wouldn't be the first time.

It was time for Gabriel to do a little hunting of his own. He'd see what kind of information he could draw out of the demon bitch before he obliterated her. He knew the general idea of what was going on, he just wasn't sure on all the details. It'd been too long since he'd been back home. There were things here that he understood, things he knew, and some things that weren't exactly making all that much sense. Finding this Ruby and having a bit of a chat might help clear some of that up.

Gabriel snapped off his TV and stood up from his couch. It was time to go hunting.

 

Chapter Text

It became sort of normal after that for Sam to get texts from the trickster. Or, at least, as normal as it could be when you were being sent random texts by the pagan god Loki. Sometimes they were helpful, a hint on their monster of the week, and sometimes they were simply to tell him that his ass looked hot in his jeans, or that he was a complete idiot for not doing something or other. Loki wasn’t exactly afraid to speak – or text – his mind.

Dean of course was curious about who on earth was texting Sam so much. In true Dean fashion, he wasn’t exactly subtle about it, either. Questions of “Who the hell are you texting so much?” quickly evolved into attempts to steal Sam’s phone once his little brother wasn’t entirely forthcoming about his new mystery friend. Of course, it didn’t really help matters that Dean was already upset with Sam over keeping things quiet about Lilith. It just made the older Winchester all the more tense about what he perceived as another betrayal of trust between them.

The first time they got into a real argument about it, it ended up with Sam left alone and furious in the motel room while Dean went out to drink.

Almost the instant that the door slammed shut behind him, Sam’s phone chimed. He glared at it for a long moment, already knowing who it was and knowing that he didn’t want to answer it right them. Dealing with Loki while already this pissed off wasn’t exactly the best plan. “Just leave me alone.” Sam growled out at the air around him. It wasn’t hard to figure out that Loki was watching him somehow. Sam hadn’t quite figured out how yet, but he would, and he’d make it stop. “I don’t need this shit right now.”

As if in response, his phone chimed again. Then again.

Sam let out an annoyed snort and dropped heavily onto his bed. Then he pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked the texts. Better to do it now than to stew and get more annoyed with each text that came in. Because he highly doubted Loki would just leave him alone. The first one read:

Lo: u 2 r utterly ridiculous

The next two, the ones that had to be in response to Sam’s words, said:

Lo: Not likely, pumpkin

Lo: u could just save ur ass the trouble an tell him who ur talking 2

“And you could type like a normal human being.” Sam grumbled.

Immediately, another reply came through.

Lo: Not human

Lo: Or normal. Ew.

Sam sighed and ran a hand through his hair to push it back from his face. How on earth had this become his life? Not only was he texting with a freaking trickster of all things, he wasn’t actually texting. “You know it’s kind of creepy to have a text conversation where I’m not actually texting.”

He was caught completely off guard when his phone began ringing. Sam stared at it for just a beat and then gave a purely mental shrug. Really, could this night get any worse than it already was? Besides, if he’d learned anything about Loki during their interactions it was that sometimes it was better to just acknowledge him or else he could get quite annoying n making sure his message got through. He wasn’t above making Sam’s phone vibrate constantly or chime at the worst possible moments if he felt like Sam was ignoring him.

There wasn’t even a chance for Sam to say hello once he answered the call. Loki started talking almost immediately. “Is this better?” The trickster asked, his tone low and teasing.

“If I say no, will you go away?”

Instead of being put off by Sam’s sarcasm, it only made Loki laugh. “Nope! You’ve got me curious, Sammy shine, an a curious trickster is a dangerous one. Why exactly is it that I've somehow become your dirty little secret? Cause I was under the impression we had to be doing something else for us to warrant that.” Even over the telephone it wasn't hard to hear the leer in Loki's voice.

Color flooded Sam's cheeks. He ducked his head, hoping that the trickster could only hear him, not see him. The last thing he needed was to be teased about blushing over his flirtations or the dorky little nicknames he gave. Sammy shine? Really? Sam cleared his throat and tried to ignore that and focus back on the conversation at hand. “It's just smarter this way.”

Why?

“Because even as bad as Dean is right now, he’d be about eighty times worse if he actually knew it was you.”

Dean hated the trickster with a passion. Any enjoyment he might've gotten out of the being before had vanished after Mystery Spot. That had pretty much sealed his fate in Dean's eyes.

Through the phone, Sam heard Loki make a scoffing sound. “Why, Sammy! I'm starting to think you guys don't like me!”

“Gee, what was your first clue?” Sam said dryly. Then, a little belated, he added on “And don't call me Sammy.”

You're adorable when you take charge like that, Sammy. Makes me all tingly.

“I definitely didn't need to know that.” Sam said. He tried to sound as disapproving as possible. Somehow, he had a feeling he felt kind of short of the mark, if Loki’s chuckle was anything to go by. How anyone could make a simple chuckle sound so dirty Sam had no idea. Choosing to ignore it, Sam sighed and dropped himself back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. His earlier anger was slowly starting to ebb away despite himself. “You know, I wouldn’t have to hide our conversations from Dean if you just left me alone.”

Where would be the fun in that?” Loki asked. “Besides, you’re already screwed around with a demon. What’s it matter if you add in a little pagan flavor, too?

“Ruby’s trying to help me. What’re you doing except trying to annoy me?”

The last thing that demonic bitch wanted was to help you.

One word in that sentence stood out to Sam. He felt his whole body go still and his eyes narrowed, no longer really seeing the ceiling above him. “What do you mean, ‘wanted’?” What had the trickster done? “Loki, what did you do?”

What you should’ve.” Loki shot back. “I got the information I wanted and then I killed her. Better than any human hunter could have, too. I made sure she’s not coming back.” There was a brief pause in which Sam just gaped, stunned. Loki let out a gusty sigh. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

It took a moment for Sam to find his voice again. When he did, the rage he'd felt with Dean earlier was nothing compared to this. “You did what?” How could he have done this? Ruby had been Sam's only hope in trying to find a way out of this deal for Dean! How could Loki have just killed her? “She was helping me!”

She wasn't helping anyone but herself. That bitch played you, Sammy, and you're too blind to see it.”

“You had no right!”

Even though they weren't in the room together, Sam swore he actually felt something crackling down the phone line, some sort of palpable threat. When Loki spoke again his voice was deeper and carried a warning edge to it that made the hunter shiver. “I had every right in the world. Don't you sit there and preach to me, Samuel Winchester, just because you were too blind to see when a demon was playing you. I tried to warn you she was setting you up. I tried to tell you that she was just using you. But you wouldn't listen to me. You're blinded by grief and fear and rage, and it's making you stupid. So I took matters into my own hands.”

“I don't need your help!” Sam snapped at him. He didn't let himself think about the sick feeling that was building in him at Loki's words. A quiet part of Sam, the part of him that wasn't encumbered by all those things that Loki had listed, knew that the trickster was right. He was too blinded by these things and he was letting it make him stupid. He'd been trusting a demon, for God's sake! The one thing in the world he should know better than to ever even think of trusting. But that part of him was drowned out under the more desperate part. The part that would do anything to save Dean. That was the part of him that had him growling out “I don't know what your game is, but I'm not playing it. Just leave me alone!” He hung up his phone and then threw it away from him, not even caring as it hit the wall.

Sam dropped himself flat onto the bed again and glared up at the ceiling above him. He didn't care if Loki was still watching or listening or whatever it was he did. Sam was too pissed off to care about anything like that. He laid there and stared, seething. How dare Loki interfere like that? How dare he kill the one being out there that was trying to help him save his brother!

Sometimes Sam felt like he was fighting against everyone and everything by trying to save Dean. Not even Dean was helping him. Sam was alone in this fight, stuck trying to save someone who was acting like he didn't want to be saved, doing everything he could and somehow always seeming to come up short.

All of a sudden a crackling noise drew Sam's attention. He looked up in surprise, body already tensed in preparation of whatever he might find, only for him to realize that it wasn't a person or creature that had made that sound. It was the TV. Somehow the TV had turned itself on. Sam sat up slowly, eyes fixed on the TV, senses still trained in the room around him. TV's turning on by themselves were never a good thing.

The blank screen suddenly clicked on like someone had pressed play on a movie. What Sam saw there had him sucking in a breath. Unconsciously, he scooted down the bed, moving to sit at the end of it. His eyes never once left the image in front of him, though. That was Ruby there on the screen. Ruby, strung up in the middle of a warehouse, wrists held in cuffs above her head, a devil’s trap on the ground keeping her in place. What threw Sam the most, though, was just how beat up Ruby looked. What the hell had happened that a demon – a thing that should be able to heal itself from anything – looked like that?

The ‘who’ wasn’t that hard to figure out. Only seconds after the image popped up, someone else came strolling onto the screen. Sam swallowed when he saw Loki walk right up to Ruby, a rather wicked looking knife in his hand, one that made it clear where a lot of her injuries had come from.

Ruby sneered at the sight of him. “Back for more, trickster?”

“What can I say?” Loki smirked at her as he stopped right in front of her. He lifted the knife out and trailed it down her arm deep enough to draw blood. The scream she let out echoed in the room and made Sam shiver. On screen, Loki chuckled. “I just the love sounds of your screams.”

“You think… you scare me?” She was panting, glaring at him through bits of sweaty hair that hung down into her face. “I’ve been to hell… you’ve got nothing on them…”

The way that Loki’s grin sharpened would’ve terrified the hell out of Sam if it’d been focused on him. He’d been on the receiving end of a glare or two from the trickster, but he counted himself lucky that Loki had never looked at him with such open hostility before. “Don’t doubt just how inventive I can be, sugar.”

“Is this how a pagan gets their kicks, then? Torturing demons?”

Loki reached up with the knife and put the tip of it in the hollow of her throat. He dragged it down, making just a thin like of red appear and causing Ruby to hiss. Sam watched, hands clenched on the end of the bed, unable to look away. There was a growing sense of unease in his stomach that didn’t just come from watching someone be tortured. It was more than that. Loki had said that he'd done what Sam should've - he'd gotten the information he wanted and then killed her. Was that what this was about? Was he showing Sam the information that he'd gathered? Sam was still angry enough with him that he wanted to shout out for Loki to turn this off. He wanted to tell him that he wasn't going to trust some random video that could've been faked for all he knew. Why should Sam trust a video from a being that had used illusions against him plenty of times in the past?

Sam did none of that, though. He just sat there and stared, unable to look away. Unable to do anything but watch.

The knife stopped just between Ruby's breasts. “I gotta admit.” He pulled the knife back and lifted it, tapping the blood soaked tip against Ruby's nose. Loki chuckled when she jerked back. “It is fun. Your kind does present an interesting challenge. You think you're so tough, always talking and fighting. You break in the end, of course.” He tilted his head, smirking at her. “You always do. But!” Loki held the knife up, waggling it at her like one would shake their finger at someone to make a point. “As fun as all this is, I actually have a purpose here today.”

“And what's that?” Ruby asked with a sneer.

“You've been playing around lately with something that isn't yours.” Loki made a low 'tsk' sound and started to slowly pace in a circle around the demon. “I don't take kindly to people playing with my toys. Makes me... cranky.”

Sam looked at Ruby's face and saw that she looked confused - honestly confused. Though he was beginning to doubt his ability to read just how honest she was about something. “Your toys? I haven't touched anything of yours.”

Loki stopped behind her. In a move so fast Sam couldn’t see it, he grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her head back, exposing her still bleeding throat and making her groan loudly. Sam could see just enough to be able to tell that Loki had leaned in and put his mouth close to her ear. While his gestures were mostly hidden from Sam by a bad angle, his voice was quite clear as he said “Sam Winchester.”

The surprise on Ruby's face echoed the surprise that Sam was feeling. His? Loki was claiming Sam as his?

He didn't get long to think about that little tidbit. Just seconds after he said it, Ruby let out a laugh that was just a bit choked because of the way her head was tilted back. “Sam?” She wheezed out another laugh. “I hate to break it to you, sunshine, but Sam's not yours. He belongs to someone a whole lot more powerful than you could ever hope to be.”

“Make no mistake, Sam is mine.” Loki hissed. “He might not see what you're doing with him, but I'm not blinded the way he is. I see plenty clear. And I won't sit idly by while you play whatever little plan you and Lilith have. Sam is mine and I don't share.”

“You don't get a choice.” Ruby hissed when Loki yanked on her hair, but she didn't stop talking, nor did it wipe the sneer off her face. “Sammy boy has a destiny, an it doesn't involve some jumped up pagan. Heaven and Hell are pushing that kid exactly where they want him to go and he's too stupid to even see it. That boy is mine. He'll do anything I want.”

It was like a fist straight to the gut. Sam was frozen as he stared at the image of the demon he’d so stupidly thought he could trust – one who had, apparently, been playing him for her own ends the entire time.

The TV shut off just as quickly and mysteriously as it'd turned on. Whatever else Ruby had to say, whatever plans she might've revealed, Loki apparently wasn't going to share with him. Sam wasn't that upset about it, though. He knew he might be later. Later, he would probably demand that Loki tell him what he'd found out. At the moment there wasn't room for any kind of thought like that beyond the hurt and pain and guilt that were eating up his insides. Loki had been right. He'd been right this entire time. Him and everyone else. They'd all seen Ruby for what she was. Everyone had known not to trust her – everyone but Sam.

Over by the wall, Sam's phone chimed, signaling a text. But Sam didn't bother getting up. “I appreciate you showing me this, Loki, and I understand if you want to rub it in. But if you don't mind, I think I'd like to be alone right now.” Was that his voice, sounding so calm? Sam almost couldn't believe it. It didn't match up with what he was feeling inside. The sick feeling that was slowly filling him.

How could he have been so stupid? How could he have been so willingly blind?

Hidden from sight on the side of the room, a silent figure watched achingly as Sam shot off the bed and raced into the bathroom. The sounds of him vomiting echoed loudly through the motel room.

Chapter Text

Finding out the truth behind Ruby shouldn't have struck Sam as hard as it had. There was a part of him that had always known. He couldn't deny that. There'd been the part inside of him that had rebelled against her help. He'd just been so damn desperate. But having Loki show him how wrong he'd been, showing him proof that she'd been lying to him and playing him this whole time – it devastated Sam. It broke him inside to think just how stupid he'd been.

And it scared him.

What had she had planned for him? He wanted to ask Loki yet at the same time he didn't. He didn't want to know what a demon had been planning for him.

There was another part of things that Sam was stuck on as well. She'd said "Heaven and Hell". Heaven and Hell. For Sam, who had always been religious, that little revelation was stunning and he didn't know what to make of it. He'd always believed that Heaven and angels were real. But the way that Ruby had said it made it seem even more real to him. Not just some ambiguous idea or something that he took solely on faith. She'd said it like she knew Heaven was real. Like she'd dealt with them. Did that mean there were really angels out there like there were demons? Did they walk the earth? They had to if she'd dealt with them. He couldn’t see a demon being allowed in Heaven.

More and more questions were cropping up and there was only one being out there that could answer them for him right now. The one being that Sam wasn't quite ready to deal with. He wasn't sure he was ready for Loki's 'I told you so'.

Of course, Sam really should've learned by now that Loki wasn't the type to follow anyone else's schedule.

Two days was all he gave Sam to process the little revelations that he'd given him. It was the quietest two days that Sam could remember having for a while. At least, quiet conversation wise. Most of the time was spent in the car and there really was no quiet in there. Not with Dean blaring his music as loud as he possibly could to try and drown out any sort of 'moment' they might end up having. Sam spent the entire trip curled up with his head pressed against the window of the passenger's seat.

They were almost to their next hunt, with Dean once more blaring his tapes, and Sam was about ready to reach over and slam the radio off – and risk Dean’s absolute fury at Sam being daring enough to touch the radio – when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.

Sam froze for one brief moment. Then, almost hesitantly, he reached down into his pocket and pulled his phone out. Sure enough the name ‘Lo’ lit up his screen. Chewing on his bottom lip, Sam stared down at it. He flashed a brief look over at Dean, who was focused on the road, and then back down to his phone. Before he could change his mind he unlocked his phone and thumbed open the message.

Lo: I'm sorry I had to show you that

The apology left Sam just a bit stunned. He stared down at his phone, not quite sure he believed what he was reading. In all the things he'd imagined that Loki would say to him, sorry hadn't appeared anywhere on the list. Sam wasn't quite prepared for it. The fact that he typed them without any of his usual shorthand only made them all the more meaningful. The words stole away the brunt of the anger he'd been nursing inside and left him with that aching feeling again. Briefly he closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he typed out his own message.

Sam: I want to see the rest

Lo: No can do, bucko

Sam: Why not?

It took a little bit for Loki's reply to come in. Sam sat staring down at his phone, holding it loosely in his hand. He could feel Dean glancing over at him and knew that his brother was wondering who he was texting again. Just because they weren't talking about it didn't mean that the issue had gone away. Sam knew that Dean wanted to know who Sam was texting more than ever. But right then Sam couldn’t really focus on it. He was too focused on the conversation he was having.

Finally, an answer came in.

Lo: U wouldn't believe me if I told u

Sam: There's not much I wouldn’t believe

Lo: I'll tell u when I know everything and when I think ur ready

Lo: Believe me kiddo I'm on ur side

Sam was torn between the urge to glare and scoff at his phone. When he was ready? Who was Loki to decide when he was ready to know something?

Sam: I have a right to know

He was surprised not only by how quickly Loki's answer came in, but by his words as well.

Lo: u do

Lo: just not yet

Giving in to the urge to snort, Sam locked his phone and shoved it down into his pocket. So Loki was going to let him know that Ruby had screwed him over and there was something bigger in play here, he just wasn't going to tell Sam what it was. What the hell? He's screwing with you, a voice in Sam's mind whispered. It wasn't the first time the thought had cropped up, either. The idea that the trickster was playing some sort of game here had crossed Sam's mind more than once. He just... he couldn’t quite believe it. Most of Loki's games carried a certain feel to them. It was how Sam had tracked him before. During those six months that hadn't happened the hunter had learned quite a lot about his pray. Namely that Loki's games all had a point. There was a purpose to all of it. Sam couldn’t figure out what the purpose would be behind tricking him into thinking that Ruby was bad or that something big was coming.

If he'd been trying to convince Sam to trust him or to turn to him for help or something like that, Sam would've been able to see the game. There were plenty of bad things that could be done that way. But Loki wasn't. He wasn't trying to get Sam to trust only him. He wasn't trying to get him to do anything. The only thing he'd wanted him to do was stop messing with Ruby.

Maybe he was laying the stage for something in the future. Maybe he was trying to set Sam up to trust him so that he could ask him for something later. But... it just didn't seem right. It didn't feel right.

For some reason, Sam's gut told him that Loki was being honest with him, that there wasn't some big trick waiting to be sprung on him.

Then again, Sam had trusted Ruby, too.

Sighing, the hunter leaned his head against the window and tried to calm his racing thoughts.


With the tension between the two brothers and all the thoughts that were dancing their way through Sam's head, plus the stress of Dean's impending death, neither boy should've agreed to go on a hunt. Neither one was in the right frame of mind for it. Yet they weren’t the type of people to be able to pass up a hunt that they stumbled across. It just wasn't in them to walk away when they were needed.

Sam was cursing them both for it now.

They shouldn't have been here. They shouldn't have even been on this case. They were on their way to something else, something bigger, but they'd caught word of what might be a haunting when they stopped for dinner and there was no way they could just walk away. Especially not when Dean said he wanted to stay. Sam couldn’t bring himself to deny Dean that. Or anything, really. Not when he knew what lay ahead for his brother, and not while he was still keeping secrets. The guilt Sam carried wouldn’t really let him deny his brother anything.

Now he was wishing that he had.

Sam laid on the floor of this old house, broken and bleeding, and watched with horror as the ghost scooped his brother up and sent him flying across the room – and straight out the third floor window.

There was only one thing Sam could think of to do and he didn’t even hesitate. Praying that Loki was watching as much as Sam thought he was, the younger Winchester shouted with both body and mind. “Loki!

For one brief second Sam wasn’t sure if his cry had been heard. Then all of a sudden the world around him changed and Sam gave a grunt as he landed on something much softer than what he’d been lying on before. The house around them flashed away in the blink of an eye and Sam found himself lying on his bed in their motel room. Standing not two feet away was Dean – and Loki.

Sam drank in the sight of his brother, whole and unharmed, and he felt like he could actually breathe again.

In a complete opposite to the way Sam relaxed, Dean almost immediately started to freak out. “What the hell?” He snapped, taking a full step back. He was glaring at Loki and raising the shotgun that he’d been holding when the ghost had flung him. “You! What the hell are you doing here?”

Loki didn’t look the least bit perturbed by the gun now pointed his way. His lips were curved up in a mocking smirk and his eyes were lit with mirth. “Talk about thanks.” The trickster moved forward and dropped down onto the end of Sam’s bed, not far from his feet. He reclined back on his hands and tossed his head a little to get his hair out of his face. His eyes stayed on Dean. “Is this the thanks I get for saving your ass back there, Deano?”

“Get away from him.” Dean snarled out. His sharp eyes shot to Sam and then back to Loki and he raised his gun a little more, taking firm aim at the trickster. “I don’t know what you’re planning or why you’re here…”

Before Dean could really get going, Sam blurted out “I called him!” He watched the shock transform his brother’s face and tried not to wince. Sam wrapped one arm around his waist and winced a little as he sat himself up. He didn’t let his injuries stop him, though. He sat up and held his free hand out towards Dean. “Don’t shoot him, Dean. I called him and he saved us.”

“You called him?” Shock faded away and recognition took its place. Despite what people thought, or what Dean let them think, the older Winchester wasn’t stupid. He had a quick, sharp mind and was good at piecing together puzzles. It was what made him such a damn good hunter. He looked at them now and Sam knew that he’d figured some things out. That was proved when Dean lowered the gun ever so slightly and moved his glare to Sam. “He’s the one you’ve been texting. You’ve been talking to the freaking trickster and you didn’t think to tell me? You didn’t think I needed to know something like this? Dammit, Sammy!”

“It’s not what you think!” Sam tried to protest.

Dean actually growled a little at that. “He’s the trickster, Sam! The trickster! The same dude that tortured you through a crap-ton of Tuesdays! And you’re, what, Facebook buddies with him now?”

Loki made an amused sound low in his throat and turned towards Sam. “Ooh, you have a Facebook?”

“Shut up!” Sam and Dean said at the same time. Neither brother took their eyes off of one another. Dean lowered the gun the rest of the way but didn’t completely set it down. He looked furious. “What the hell, Sam? What is it with you and monsters? First Ruby – now him? What do you think you’re doing?”

Straightening up, and wincing yet again as his aching body protested any form of movement, Sam glared right back at his brother. “See, this is why I didn’t tell you. I knew you’d freak out.”

“You’re damn right I’m freaking out!”

Sam ran his free hand through his hair. He cast a look over at Loki, who was watching them all with open amusement. Then he looked back at his brother. “He’s not all bad, Dean. He’s… I don’t even know what. He’s helpful sometimes.”

“Helpful?” Dean asked, incredulous. “The dude killed me like a hundred times!”

“An he just saved your ass. Though, I don’t really know why.” Sam slanted a look towards Loki, still not quite sure why Loki had come in and saved them. He’d hoped for his help when he’d screamed out his name, he just hadn’t been sure it would come. Loki was a bit… unpredictable.

The trickster shrugged at him. “Meh. You would’ve been unhappy if something happened to him.” His lips curved once more into a smirk. “Only I get to mess with you two.”

“Gee, thanks.” Dean said sarcastically.

Loki grinned at him. “You’re welcome!”

The tension in the room rose a little more and Sam tried not to sigh. He’d known from the start that bringing these two around one another was just like asking for trouble. They had too much history to really get along. The fact that they were so much alike in so many ways only made the whole situation more volatile. They were far more likely to bicker and try to kill one another than anything else. Considering Loki actually had killed Dean in the past and was fully capable of doing it again, and making it stick this time, Sam knew he had to try and break this up before it got too far. He just didn’t have any clue how.

“Dean.” The sound of his brother’s name drew Dean’s gaze back to Sam and off of Loki. That was a good first step. Drawing in a breath, Sam tried to find a way to explain all of this to his brother in a way that might actually get him to calm down a little. “I know you don’t trust him, and I don’t always trust him either. But he hasn’t hurt me and he hasn’t done anything threatening. He just, he sends me annoying texts or commentary on what we’re doing. Sometimes he helps out. He’s given me hints on cases we work before and he even tried to warn me when we got trapped at Bela’s place. I just didn’t trust him enough then to listen to him.”

“But you trust him now.” Dean said, focusing on one point in all that.

Sam shrugged one shoulder. He deliberately did not look over at Loki. “I don’t know. But I do know he could’ve been screwing with us this whole time and he hasn’t been.”

“I’ve got bigger and better fish to fry.” Loki chimed in. He hadn’t moved from his spot on the bed and didn’t seem at all bothered by the conversation going on right above him.

“So, what?” Dean spun to face the trickster, one hand clenching tight on the shotgun he still held. “You expect me to just forget about the shit you did and believe it’s all sunshine and roses? That you’re not screwing around with my brother again?”

Loki let out a warm, almost husky laugh. “Hell no. I don’t expect shit out of you except that maybe you don’t try and kill me whenever I show up. Cause I promise you, bucko, I am gonna show up. Whether you like it or not. For some reason, I’m stupidly invested in your brother over here.” He lifted one hand and jerked his thumb in Sam’s direction. “I tried to teach him to let you go, to learn to live without you, but we all know that little lesson didn’t work. So it falls to me to make sure he doesn’t turn into a revenge driven bastard again once you’re gone. An no, I’m not telling either one of you why, so don’t bother asking.” Loki’s grin stretched wide. “I’m not following you two everywhere, but I’m gonna be around, Deano. Get used to it.”

As Dean growled and Loki laughed, Sam huffed out a breath and let himself drop back down on the bed. This was going to end up a disaster, he just knew it.

Chapter Text

Having Dean Winchester’s very reluctant stamp of approval on things made life that much easier for Gabriel. Now that Dean knew who Sam was talking to, it meant that Gabriel didn’t have to bother trying to hide himself as much anymore. He could text Sam whenever – not that he hadn’t done that before anyways – and he could even follow up his texts with popping in, or he could bypass texting all together and just go straight to the source.

Well, so long as he was prepared to deal with a rather cranky Winchester. While Sam seemed to be warming up to his visits, slowly but surely, Dean wasn't at all pleased with Gabriel's presence and he'd made that more than clear each time he saw him. Whether it be by snorting at him, glaring, or straight up leaving the room. Not that it really bothered Gabriel in the least damn bit. It wasn't Dean that he was here for.

He knew that they'd already had their fight over him. Dean had only waited until Gabriel left that first night before he'd laid into Sam. That had been one epic argument. Gabriel had watched from the privacy of his own home, alternately cheering at the snarky remarks from either boy, or grimacing at the sharper words. When a solid right hook from Dean sent Sam to the ground, it'd had Gabriel wincing and fighting not to fly out there. Somehow he'd kept himself there on his couch, trying to remind himself that it wasn't something strange for one brother to punch another in a fight – especially these two – and that Sam had lied to Dean for quite a while. If he got off with just one fist to the face it was a lot better than it could've been.

The fight had let the two get a lot of their emotions out in the open and cleared things up a little between the two. They weren't perfect, but then again Gabriel hadn't expected that. Dean's deadline was getting closer and closer. Of course there was going to be tension. Because of that, because he knew what was coming, Gabriel made sure not to give in to Dean's obvious need to provoke a fight with him. He also held his tongue when Sam's words got a little sharp. Dean was spoiling for a fight – Sam was bottling up his emotions as best as he could and it would only take one wrong thing to send them spewing over.

This whole thing was one giant mess. As Gabriel sat on the couch in the latest Winchester motel room, watching the two hunters debate something over at the table and ignoring the glares that Dean kept sending his way, he tried not to let his worries get the best of him. They were just weeks away from Dean's deal coming due. Just a few short weeks left. What the hell was he going to do when that happened? So many things had changed since he'd set up the Mystery Spot to try and teach Sam to let Dean go.

Tilting his head, Gabriel looked over to Sam and watched the younger Winchester move, watched the play of expression over his face as Sam explained the details for their hunt. Some sort of ghost that Gabriel could've taken care of with a snap of his fingers. He didn't, though. Even he could see that these two needed something to do with themselves so they didn't go crazy. Having him do all their hunts for them wasn't going to do them any good. They needed to work to be able to distract themselves even for a short while.

Something Sam found had a corner of his mouth curving up into a grin that flashed just a hint of one dimple and those hazel eyes lit up.

Gabriel’s grace gave a little lurch and he fought not to groan. It wasn’t fair! Why on earth had Raziel had to grow up in a vessel that was so damn gorgeous? And one that seemed to suit him so well, too!

Well, that last part was easier answered than the first. It made sense that the vessel he was in suited him. When Raziel fell and his grace sought somewhere to go, and after each body he’d been in had died, his grace would’ve found a body somewhere with a child that was just forming, and it would’ve reached out to it and latched on just the same way that a soul attached to one. The body that formed was a product of both its parents, yes, but grace would've influenced its forming more than a normal soul would have. This body here really was a manifestation of Raziel's grace in quite a few ways.

Sure, there were plenty of traits that were pure Winchester, and some that were Campbell. But there were a lot of things that reminded Gabriel of the angel he'd once known. That light for knowledge that would fill his face, the color shifting eyes that reminded him so much of the warm and easy colors that could fill Raziel's grace when it would wrap around Gabriel. Even the height! Raziel had always been larger than the rest of them. Yet, at the same time, he'd never used that height against any of them. He hadn't paraded around and used his size to his advantage. If anything, he'd often made himself appear smaller, a feat that had always amazed Gabriel. It seemed that was another thing that hadn't changed. Sam often hunched down as if he could somehow make himself smaller that way.

“Loki?”

The sound of his other name interrupted Gabriel's thoughts and snapped him back to the present. He blinked eyes that had gone distant and then focused them right on Sam's face. The boy was watching him with a little furrow between his brows. Gabriel curved his own lips into a smile and arched one eyebrow. “What's up, buttercup?”

The nickname had the desired effect of wiping away Sam's curiosity and making him scowl. Really, the big guy shouldn't look so adorable when scowling.  “Don't call me that.”

Humming, but saying nothing, Gabriel shifted his weight to be more comfortable while looking at Sam, and he pulled a candy bar out of his pocket. It amused him even more that he could see Dean straightening up behind Sam and glaring even more than normal. Any signs of what Dean might consider flirting always brought out the worst looks from him. Naturally, it just made Gabriel want to do it more.

Sam seemed to realize that calling Gabriel on it wasn't going to do anything. He shook his head and rolled his eyes, but he didn't push it. “We're gonna go check out a couple of places before it gets really dark.”

“So time to scram, buddy.” Dean chimed in.

Well, now. Gabriel let his grin grow and took a bite off the candy bar. “Recon work? Sounds like fun!”

The two realized what he meant at almost the exact same time. Sam's mouth dropped open just the slightest bit as if he were honestly surprised that Gabriel would even think of coming with them, and really, who could blame him? Gabriel hadn't done any case work with them so far. At least not on a personal level like this. He'd sent hints and clues Sam's way a few times through text but that was it.

Dean, however, went from annoyed to straight up pissed off. “Oh hell no. You are not coming with us!”

“Not with you.” Gabriel wrinkled his nose and looked Dean over before pretending to shudder. Then he turned his gaze to Sam and let the disgust melt off of his expression, practically beaming at the kid. It was so worth it as he watched the grace-soul in Sam light up and his cheeks heat up with a blush. “I call the Moose. We'll check out half your list and you can check out the other half. Gets it done twice as fast!”

It looked like Dean was going to protest. Before he could, Sam reached back and lightly touched his arm, startling him out of whatever he'd been about to say. “We were already planning on splitting up, Dean. It's fine.”

“You sure, Sammy?”

There was something in Dean's look that Gabriel wasn't quite able to decipher. He could delve into the kid's head and see what it was he was trying to say to Sam, but he chose not to. No telling what it was like in that grapefruit. Not pleasant, most likely.

Whatever it was he was trying to say, it was obvious that Sam understood it. He tilted his head and shrugged one shoulder at the same time that a corner of his mouth twitched like he was fighting a smile. Dean snorted and shook his head. The tension on his face melted a little, though, and the heat left his eyes.

What the hell? If Gabriel didn't know better, he'd think that Raziel had somehow retained some of his powers and was talking telepathically with the grumpier Winchester. A whole conversation had gone on with just those looks and Gabriel honestly had no idea what that conversation had even been about!

When the two turned back towards Gabriel they'd reached a silent accord without ever having had to say a word. Dean straightened up and fixed Gabriel with his hardest glare yet. “You hurt my brother and I swear, I’ll find a way to make you regret it.”

There were a thousand ways that Gabriel could’ve responded to that and most of them would’ve been entertaining and amusing. However, he resisted the urge to needle Dean and just let himself nod in acknowledgement of the threat.

“C’mon.” Sam said, pushing up to his feet and placing himself perfectly between the two, breaking their staring contest. “The sooner we get out there, the sooner we’ll find what we need and we can get this case wrapped up.”


It appeared that what they were doing was searching through two different sections of woods on either side of town to try and find some sort of clearing or other that Sam swore would hold the girl’s burial site. How on earth he knew that it was somewhere in the woods around town, but didn’t know which section, Gabriel had no idea. He wasn’t going to question it, though. Wandering through the fading light of dusk with a gorgeous moose? He’d definitely spent worse evenings.

Of course, he couldn’t resist a little teasing to go with it all. Especially when he saw Sam twitch when something started rustling off in the distance. “Don't worry, Sammy. I'll protect you from the big bad monsters in the woods.” Reaching out, Gabriel curled his hand around the crook of Sam's arm and then grinned up at him, enjoying the startled look on Sam's face.

Gabriel knew that Sam was just being cautious - they were on a hunt after all - but it was more fun to needle him.

Plus, it got him that bitchface that he'd learned meant 'I don't find you funny in the least bit', and that was always amusing to see. “I'm not scared. It's called being alert, Loki. It's how we humans stay alive.”

Much to Gabriel's enjoyment, Sam didn't pull away from Gabriel's hold. In the archangel's mind that was pretty much permission to keep on holding on to his arm while they walked. “Pffft. You do realize I'd know something was coming our way long before you did?”

“I figured as much. Doesn't mean that you'd tell me, though.”

Gabriel let out a surprised laugh. Damn, this kid could get sassy sometimes. He loved it. It wasn't the straight up temper that Dean fired back with. This was a hidden snarky side that Gabriel wanted nothing more than to encourage. It was a skill that probably came from being a little brother. “Sammy, I'm shocked! You think I'd stand here and let you get hurt?”

Sam slanted a look at him that Gabriel couldn't quite read. It was either amused or annoyed, he couldn't be sure. Sometimes the two seemed to mix together when Sam looked at him. “I think so long as it wasn't extremely deadly, you'd keep out of it and let me handle it on my own.”

Well... maybe. Gabriel might have to give him that one. If it was something simple and easy he probably would stand back and let Sam handle it. There was something about watching the man when he hunted that could be rather appealing. He had a deadly grace to him that Gabriel had always enjoyed watching, even before he'd realized that it was probably a bit of his inner archangel leaking through. Raziel hadn't liked to fight but he still knew how. He knew quite a lot more than most angels would've credited him with. Not only had he known how to fight in his true form, Gabriel knew for a fact that Raziel had studied how to fight inside of a vessel as well. It was all knowledge to him and there'd been nothing more that Raz had loved than knowledge, except for their Father.

A warm hand settled over where Gabriel's hand still sat on Sam's arm. He looked up with surprise and saw that Sam wasn't really doing it intentionally - he was more instinctively bracing as they moved to step up over a rather rocky area and over a fallen log.

When they got to the top, Sam's hand dropped. He looked down at Gabriel and there was something curious on his face. Whatever it was, he wasn't asking. He just turned and went back to scanning the woods around them.

Gabriel shook his head and smiled to himself. Then he brought his other hand up so that he could thread his fingers together and continued to hold on to Sam's arm. As he did, he gave Sam's arm a squeeze. “What's on your mind there, kiddo?” At the look Sam gave him, Gabriel snorted. “What? You think I'm blind? I can see you've got questions. Whatever they are, go ahead and ask them. I may not always answer, or I may not give an answer you like, but I won't kill you just for asking a question.”

That made Sam smile, even just a little. “Careful, Loki. I've been told I ask way too many questions. You really sure you want to make that kind of offer?”

“Bring it on, kiddo.”

Sam chuckled and shook his head. He took a second before he spoke again, but only because something in the distance caught his attention and he turned a little to try and check it out. Only after he figured out that it wasn't what they were looking for did he start moving them again and finally brought his attention back to their conversation. “I guess I'm just... I was just curious. I mean, you have to admit this whole thing here,” He gestured with one hand towards them and then the forest, “is a little strange.”

“Meh.” Gabriel shrugged his shoulders. “I like the forests and I like you.”

Those simple words brought another blush to Sam's cheeks. It was absolutely adorable. The hunter shook his head. “I don't understand you.”

“Of course you don't. I'm way too awesome for your puny human mind.” Gabriel said immediately. He winked at Sam and then leaned in, bumping them together. “What's confusing you this time, though?”

Sam didn't answer right away. He took a few minutes to put his thoughts together. Gabriel didn’t mind giving it to him. It wasn’t like there was anything pressing ahead of them. The burial site was a little ways away yet. By Gabriel’s calculations, they should reach it in another fifteen minutes. That was plenty of time for Sam to get his thoughts together and for them to talk. At least, that’s what Gabriel believed. That is, right up until Sam opened his mouth and surprised Gabriel, yet again, with that sharp mind of his.

“Sometimes, I get the feeling that we’re, I don’t know, we’re almost friends.” Sam said slowly. He moved them around a patch of thick tree roots and Gabriel subtly pulled on Sam’s arm until they were steered in the right direction. Sam didn’t notice the movement and just kept walking. He chewed nervously on his bottom lip. “I mean, we hang out, we talk, we tell stories about our lives. It’s kind of like being friends. But, other times… Sometimes, it’s like you’re… like you’re mad at me for something. Only, I don’t know what.”

Gabriel arched an eyebrow. Interesting. Sam picked up on quite a lot more than Gabriel had given him credit for. To cover that up, he let his lips curve up into a smirk and his eyes flashed with a sharp sort of amusement. “Well you have tried to kill me more’n a few times now, kiddo.”

Sam shook his head. “No, it’s more personal. Like… like I pissed you off. I just don’t know what I did.”

It was hard to hold on to his masks when Sam spoke in that low, almost hesitant voice. The grace-soul in the kid was almost pulsing and Gabriel felt the draw of it, felt the need to reach out and touch something that he had once shared so much with. Looking up at Sam’s face, he found that he couldn’t lie. Not directly. His voice turned just a bit honest as he sighed and said “I am mad, Sammy – but not at you. You… remind me of someone I knew a long time ago.”

“What’d they do?”

“Made some stupid choices.” Gabriel sighed and turned away, staring out into the distance without really paying any attention to where they were walking. His own extra senses and Sam’s arm would keep him from running into anything. Confident in that, the archangel lost himself for a moment in memories, in feelings that he’d tried so hard to suppress and which came to the surface the more time he spent around Sam. “He sent me away so I couldn’t help him.”

There was a long moment of quiet before Sam replied, his voice even softer than before. “Maybe he was trying to protect you.”

“I don’t need protecting!” Gabriel exclaimed.

“Doesn’t matter.” At Gabriel’s sharp look, Sam shrugged. “Even if they don’t think they need it, we still do it for the ones we love.”

That sounded so much like Raziel. Even though he’d been younger, he’d wanted nothing more than to protect Gabriel. Memories of coming back from that mission, of finding Raziel gone, swamped the archangel. He closed his eyes and his own voice went soft. “I could’ve helped him.”

“Maybe...” Sam bit his lip. Now he was the one staring off into space, not even noticing the way that Gabriel had turned to look at him.

The light had slowly faded around them and it was mostly dark now, cloaking everything in shadows. But Gabriel’s eyes could see and they latched onto Sam’s face. Neither one of them noticed that they’d stopped walking. Gabriel looked up at Sam, who was staring ahead of him. Gabriel had no idea what the kid was seeing but he knew it wasn’t the forest. “Maybe what, Sam?” He asked softly.

“Maybe it was protecting him, too.” Sam answered, his voice just as soft, and just as distant as his gaze was. “Maybe he was afraid he wouldn’t have the strength to do what had to be done if you were there. Sometimes, even if we love someone, we make them weak. Maybe…Maybe he was afraid he’d be too weak with you there to make the kind of sacrifice he knew he had to make.”

The whole world seemed to still around them. Gabriel didn’t even bother making his vessel breathe. It wasn’t like he needed it. He stood frozen, not even blinking as he watched Sam’s face. How… how did he… It was like Sam was gone in that moment and Raziel was showing through, speaking on things that Sam shouldn’t even know. “Sam?”

His voice jarred Sam out of his thoughts. The hunter blinked a few times to clear his eyes and then he looked down at Gabriel. Whatever he saw seemed to surprise him. Sam furrowed his brows, his eyes clearing of that distant look, and whatever had been going on before was gone now. It was just Sam there, watching him with concern. “Loki?”

The sound of his other name on Sam’s lips jarred him. For a moment there Gabriel had half expected to hear Sam call him Gabriel. He’d expected Raziel’s voice, his grace, and seeing only Sam there was enough to snap Gabriel back to the present. Grief swelled up in the archangel. He’d been doing so good at keeping the grief away but now he couldn’t stop it. It filled him until his grace was screaming with it.

Gabriel did the only thing that he could do. Without a word, without any of his usual grins or eyebrow wiggling or even his customary snap, he vanished.

Chapter Text

After vanishing in the woods, Loki stayed gone for longer than he had since the Mystery Spot. There was no communication between him and Sam - no visits, no texts, nothing. It left Sam a lot more worried and unsettled than he'd expected himself to be. Considering how much Sam had fought against having Loki around at first, it would've made more sense for him to relax a little without the trickster's presence. Yet he found himself feeling almost exactly the opposite.

Sam felt on edge and unsure. He kept replaying his last conversation with him, trying to figure out what about it had upset Loki so much. That was the only explanation that he could come up with. Something that they'd been talking about had obviously set him off. Only, Sam wasn't sure what.

Sure, the conversation had been a weird one. It'd been, not quite normal. Sam wasn't even entirely sure where half of his own words had come from. They'd just felt... right.

Apparently not. They'd upset Loki enough for him to vanish so there had to be something about them that had been wrong. He just wasn't sure what. Maybe Sam had just poked a little too much at a sensitive topic. In the future, he was going to have to make a point to avoid that – whatever it was.

It only took about three days of Sam silently worrying and no sign of Loki before Dean confronted Sam about it.

The two were eating dinner in their room while doing research to help them get Dean out of his deal. Well, Sam was trying to do research. Dean was mostly sitting there staring at him. Halfway through the meal Sam decided he couldn't take it anymore. “What?” He snapped, glaring up at his brother. “What're you staring at me for?”

“What's going on?” Dean asked him.

Sam furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “What're you talking about? You're the one staring at me.”

He watched his brother roll his eyes, trying to ignore the little pang inside that reminded him he was running out of time to save this man, and then Dean set his fork down on his plate. “Don't give me that shit, Sammy. No bullshit. Something happened between you and the trickster and I wanna know what. The dude goes from forcing his way into our lives to suddenly bailing completely. What happened?” Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on the table and fixed Sam with a look that the younger Winchester remembered from many childhood scenes. It was a look that was pure big brother - one that said that he was tired of Sam's shit and they were going to talk about this, now, whether either one of them liked it or not. Much as Dean tried to say that he didn't do 'chick flick moments', he'd always endured them when it came to Sam and Sam's well-being. He'd always done anything for Sam.

Swallowing down the bite of his food that suddenly felt too big, Sam tightened his grip on his fork. Then he deliberately relaxed. No more lies. He'd told himself that after getting dean so upset with him for hiding Loki to begin with. No more lies. “I... I don't know. Really.” That last part was tacked on when he was the disbelief on Dean's face. Sighing, Sam ran one hand through his hair, pushing it back from his face. “We were just talking and, I don't know. I think maybe we got a little too personal for him and he got uncomfortable.”

“What were you talking about?”

“Old friends. He said I remind him of someone he used to know. Someone who made some stupid choices and didn't come to him for help.”

Instead of dismissing those words outright, Dean let out a low thoughtful grunt. He picked up his fork again and poked absently at the chicken in its takeout tray. “That'd explain why he's so hell-bent on trying to help you.” He finally said.

Sam shrugged one shoulder. “Could be.” Watching Dean carefully, Sam hesitated for a second. Then, deciding to risk it, he hesitantly added “You’re kind of taking this rather well. I mean, considering how little you like him.”

That drew a snort out of Dean. “I don’t know if I’ll ever like him, Sammy. The guy’s a dick. But,” Pausing, Dean shrugged. “He’s not making you any promises about saving me an he’s not pushing to get you to do anything. He’s just trying to, I don’t know, take care of you I guess. I can get behind that. God knows you need someone to do it.” The last part was tacked on with a shameless grin.

“Bite me.” Sam’s voice didn’t carry any real heat to it, though.

“Do you trust him?”

The question surprised Sam. It wasn’t one that Dean had asked so far. All he’d done was rant and rave about how Sam shouldn’t trust Loki. He hadn’t once asked him outright if Sam did. There was no anger in his tone, either. Nothing to suggest that he was going to yell at Sam for his answer. If anything, he sounded curious. Like this was something he really wanted to know.

That honesty had Sam actually thinking about his answer instead of just giving off a flip response. Did he trust Loki? Everything he’d been taught in life told him to say no. He was a trickster. He was a supernatural being who had trapped Sam in a painful time loop and killed his brother over a hundred times just to try and convince Sam to let go of him. He was sharp, snarky, powerful, dangerous, and fond of pranks that could turn out quite deadly for those involved. Yet… he’d done that time loop to convince Sam to let go, to help him, and he’d admitted that there was a bigger picture he was trying to save them from even if he wouldn’t say what it was. He could also be surprisingly sweet, sometimes gentle, understanding, and he listened to Sam with an attentiveness that not even Dean managed sometimes.

“Yeah.” Sam’s voice was soft when he finally spoke, but it steadied out and firmed as he looked up and met his brother’s eyes. “Yeah, I do. I know it doesn’t make any sense. I’ve got all these things in my head that tell me that I shouldn’t.”

“But?”

“But… I don’t know. It’s just… it’s like there’s something in me that’s telling me to trust him.”

Dean sat up straighter and his gaze sharpened. “Is this another of those freaky mind things of yours?”

Huh, Sam hadn’t thought of that. Was it something like his premonitions? The more Sam thought about it, the more sense it made. “Maybe. It’s like this gut feeling that tells me I can trust him.”

For a long moment Dean just silently watched his little brother. What he was reading in Sam’s face was anyone’s guess. There’d never been anyone that could read Sam better than Dean. Whatever it was he was trying to see, Sam sat there and let him, not trying to hide anything. He watched as Dean finally gave a small nod. “All right.”

“All right?”

“I’m not saying I’m gonna trust him right out, or even like him.” Dean warned him quickly. “I’m just saying, I’ll try.”

Warmth spread through Sam. Despite the things they’d gone through together, despite their history and their years apart as well as the fact that Sam was an adult now, hearing those words from his brother was enough to have him flushing and warming all at the same time. No one’s opinions had ever mattered as much as Dean’s. To hear that the trust between them was still there even after all this time – after all the shit since he’d left for Stanford – it left Sam choked up. “Thanks, Dean.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Dean grumbled. He was smiling, though, and there was love in his gaze for those that knew how to see it. Sam had never had trouble seeing it.

A new peace fell over them as the two men went back to their meals.


That peace lasted only a short while. There was too much in front of them, too little time left, and the peace gave way to the frantic need to do something, to save his brother.

Until it was too late.


The day that Dean’s deal came due was the day that Loki came back into their lives. The brothers were at Bobby’s house that morning, one of them working frantically and the other waiting with far more calm than one would expect.

Dean wasn’t all that surprised when he looked up from the table where he was drinking his coffee and he found Loki leaning against the counters in Bobby’s kitchen. His eyes were calm and steady as they fixed on the trickster. While Sam might still be working so hard to find something, desperate to find anything, and Bobby was helping him – Dean knew better. He knew what was coming. He’d known ever since he’d made that deal and it was one he wouldn’t ever regret.

“Bout time you showed back up.” Dean finally said. He sat back in his chair, bringing his mug up to cradle it in front of his face. There was no alcohol in it for once. This one last time, he wanted to enjoy the flavor, enjoy the smell. He wanted to savor everything. This was going to be his last time doing it, after all.

The way that Loki was looking at him was nothing like the way the trickster had looked at him before. Nor was it anything like the frantic and scared looks that Bobby and Sam wore. There was something old in his eyes; an aged look that was full of a sorrow greater than Dean could ever know, and an understanding that left him humbled. “I’m here now.”

Dean nodded his head at those words. “Good.”

Quiet settled over the kitchen. In the next room, neither man seemed to have noticed Dean’s new companion yet. Either that or Loki was making sure that they didn’t. Whichever it was, Dean found he didn’t care. He was sort of grateful for it, really. There was something relaxing in that moment of quiet with a being he’d once hunted. Something about it that loosened knots Dean had been carrying nonstop for a long, long time. The sick feeling that had been growing steadily with each passing day this last year was now faded so far it was almost gone. The coffee he’d been trying to enjoy before now became truly enjoyable.

They stayed that way until Dean finished off the last drink from his mug. Only then did he lift his eyes and look up at Loki once more. The whole time that Dean had drank, Loki hadn’t once moved, staying in place against the counter and watching everything around him. His eyes came right back to Dean’s the instant that he felt the hunter’s eyes on him.

Here, before the others joined them, there was something that Dean needed to say. Something that needed to be done before anyone else could hear them. It was important and he’d been saving up the words for just this moment. Because he’d known, even if Sam had begun to not believe, that Loki would come back. Whatever drew the trickster to his brother was something that Dean didn’t have to like to be able to see. He just hoped that he was doing the right thing in trusting him – in trusting Sam. Sam trusted Loki and Dean trusted Sam. That would have to be enough.

“Sammy’s gonna need you.” Dean’s voice was low, yet steady, with a firmness that showed just how important these words were. “He’s gonna try and push you away, convince you that he can handle this on his own, that he doesn’t need anyone. Ignore it.” Taking a deep breath, Dean set his mug down. “Dad tried to train it out of him but Sammy’s always felt things more strongly than the average person. He’ll try and lock it inside like Dad taught him – try and turn it to anger. You can’t let him.”

“I won’t.” Loki answered in a voice just as low and just as serious. It carried a hint of a promise to it that had Dean nodding.

“Bobby’s gonna try an help, but he can only do so much. Sammy don’t trust a lot of people. He’ll break away an Bobby won’t be able to stop him.”

Loki nodded in understanding. “I will.”

A little more of Dean’s tension faded away. He found himself believing those soft words. Still, he couldn’t help but add a threat to the end of this, even if both of them knew how futile it was. “You let him get himself killed or something up here and I swear, I’ll find a way to come haunt your ass and make you miserable for the rest of your existence.”

Humor flashed in Loki’s eyes and his lips quirked up. “You’re not the Winchester I’d like on my ass, bucko.”

Dean gagged and Loki laughed, and for a brief moment, the world was all right.

Chapter Text

It was one of the hardest things that Gabriel had ever done to sit back and watch Sam go through the kind of pain that he was in.

Gabriel wasn’t the least bit surprised when Dean managed to slip away from his family. In fact, the archangel might’ve helped a little, though Dean didn’t know it. He’d sheltered his escape and kept the others from noticing until it was too late.

This was Dean’s death – how he did it was his choice to make. He didn’t want his family there and Gabriel couldn’t blame him for that.

As soon as the two realized he was gone, they were terrified and livid both. It only grew when they tried to leave and found that they couldn’t.

“Loki!” Sam shouted, knowing exactly who was responsible for this. “Let us out of here!”

Gabriel didn’t bother answering him. He just continued making sure the place was as warded as it could be without drawing too much attention to it – some wards that existed were strong enough that just having them up was a way of drawing attention, because there shouldn’t be anyone powerful enough on earth to be able to teach them to someone. Those ones he stayed away from. But every other one he could think of, he put up. Once he had them safe, going so far as to make it to where neither human could leave, he sought out the older Winchester. Gabriel knew what he would find; he’d felt it the instant that it happened.

What was left of Dean after the Hellhounds got to him was something that Gabriel wouldn’t wish on anyone. He may not have gotten along with Dean, but he had liked him well enough, and he’d respected him in his own way. This was the man who had stepped up and become Sam’s father even though he’d been just a kid himself. This was the man who’d kept Sam alive and safe and had taught him how to love and how to be happy. He’d encouraged Sam in his own way, doing everything for him that was within his power to do. In the end, he’d made the greatest sacrifice of all, and that was one that should be honored. Even knowing that it was all orchestrated for this moment, and even knowing what was to come, Gabriel still had to honor the man for what he’d done.

He cleaned Dean up with just a touch. Skin knit back together and his clothes were once more whole. There was no reason for Bobby or Sam to have to see him as he’d been.

Only when he had Dean somewhere safe did he finally go back to Bobby’s home.

The fist to the face that he was greeted with wasn’t really a surprise. Gabriel let it connect, let himself soften just enough that it wouldn’t break Sam’s hand. “You son of a bitch!” Sam snarled at him. “Where is he? Where’s my brother?”

Over Sam’s shoulder, the trickster caught Bobby’s gaze and he saw the grief build there, saw as the older man realized what had happened. What he’d already known in his heart had happened. The older hunter made as if to step towards Sam and Gabriel gave a small shake of his head. I’ll take care of him. He sent the thought directly to Bobby’s mind, watching as the hunter startled, narrowed his eyes at him, and then nodded.

Gabriel met Sam’s eyes and cursed his brothers for everything they were doing and everything they’d done. “I’ll take you to him.” With no more than that, he flew him and Sam away.

There weren’t any words that were going to prepare Sam for what came next. Gabriel knew that and he hated it. He hated the pain he was about to cause Sam. Already, the kid’s soul was screaming, crying with the grief of what he knew was coming. But that was nothing compared to the pain that it emitted when Gabriel turned Sam and the hunter caught sight of his brother lying so still on the bed.

It was a good thing Gabriel hadn’t moved away from him. Despite their size difference, he easily caught Sam and held him as the kid’s knees gave way. The moan that Sam let out was so full of pain it had Gabriel closing his eyes against it all while his grace shuddered inside of him.

Dean.” The sound of Sam’s voice was so different than normal. This wasn’t the strong, tough hunter. This wasn’t even a grown man. It was a little boy staring brokenly at the body of the person who had been more father than brother, the most consistent person in his life. The one who had been family and best friend all rolled into one. Sam struggled against Gabriel’s hold and there was nothing the archangel could do in that moment except let him go.

His grace ached more and more as he watched Sam stumble towards the bed that Gabriel had left Dean on. The little boy – and in that moment, he was more a little boy than he had been for a long, long time – climbed right up into the bed without any hesitation. He didn’t gather Dean into his arms. Instead, he folded up against him, compacting down into a small little ball that he plastered against his brother’s side, his ear going to a chest that would hold none of the sounds Sam was looking for. “De.” The little whimper was pulled from Sam along with the first few tears. Sam clenched his eyes shut even as one of his hands lifted in front of him, wrapping around the ever present necklace around Dean’s neck. The amulet at the end was clenched in Sam’s fist and held there as the boy began to cry.

It ripped at Gabriel to see this. He’d planned to keep Sam here, to keep him safe as they waited, maybe even explain to him what was coming. There was no way he would’ve been able to sit back and watch his grief without giving him some kind of hope to hold on to. Cruel though he may be, he wasn’t that cruel.

But now, faced with Sam’s pain, feeling the grief that was swamping the room, Gabriel’s grace was screaming at him to do more. It was pulsing inside of him with the kind of brightness he hadn’t felt since before he ran away from home. The need inside of him was an old one; one that screamed at him to take care of the one in front of him, the one he’d sworn to always look out for.

Gabriel was moving before he’d made the conscious decision to do so. His bearing was that of a soldier as he marched up to the bed, each step steady and sure. He paused at the bedside and reached out a hand to lay it on Dean’s head. When Sam looked up at him with those wet eyes, the grace hidden inside flaring in them with a grief so strong it was almost choking Gabriel, the archangel couldn’t stop his own grace from showing just a bit in response. “It’s going to be okay, Sam. I’ll make it okay. I just need you to stay on this property. Stay in this house until I get back, all right?”

“Where are you going?” Sam asked, his voice hoarse.

“To get your brother back.” Gabriel said.

As he flew away, he held on to hope that he’d seen flashing in Sam’s eyes. He held onto it as he stopped at the very house that he’d gotten his vessel from all that time ago when he’d first run away from Heaven. It was the last place on earth that Gabriel had really been an angel. It seemed sort of appropriate that it was where he went now as he let go of his vessel and became that angel again.


It took four days – just shy of two months, hell time.

Two months of fighting as Gabriel flew through places no angel was ever meant to go. For the first time in millennia the archangel didn’t bother to even try and hide who he was. He flew through hell with his wings spread wide and the light of his grace shining out from him. Some were stupid enough to fight him. Others were smart enough to flee before him. Any that got in his way were destroyed. Though it’d been long since he’d fought like this, it wasn’t something that one forgot, and he’d learned new tricks over the years. Gabriel was going to let nothing, not a single demon or creature, stand in the way of what he was trying to do.

The screams of the Righteous Man echoed up to him as he descended into the pit.


He knew the demon that stood in front of the soul of the older Winchester, who had it stretched out on the rack. Alistair turned to look at Gabriel and he didn’t turn away in fear. He stood proud and tall and glared right at him. “What are you doing here?”

Gabriel didn’t bother playing games. “I’m here for what’s mine.” He said simply. Then, with a blast of grace and a slash of his sword, he cut the ties that held Dean’s soul in place and he gathered it to him, pulling it in as close as he could. He kept his touch gentle – this human wasn’t his and it wasn’t the one he wanted to mark. He wouldn’t put a mark on a human that didn’t belong to him. “Hang on tight, Deano. We’re getting you out of here.”


The trip out was almost worse than the trip in. So many fought to keep them there. They fought to grab the soul that was now clutching at Gabriel.

The archangel thought of the man waiting for him, the one he’d sworn so long ago to protect. He thought of hazel eyes full of tears and hope.

He flew faster.


Four days after Gabriel left his vessel behind, he was once more back on earth. He wasted no time in flying straight to his vessel and pouring himself back inside. Even then, he didn’t give himself time to recover, staggering a little as he held the bright light of Dean’s soul to him and tried to keep it alive, to keep it from being burned out by his grace. Gabriel held it tight as he stretched his exhausted wings out once more and set off to the house where he’d left Dean’s body behind.

Sam wasn’t there when Gabriel got there. For that, the archangel was grateful.

But something must’ve alerted Sam to his presence because he came tearing in just as Gabriel was pouring the light of Dean’s soul down into him. The younger Winchester stood frozen in the doorway as Dean’s body bowed up off the bed and took a great big gulp of air.

Gabriel held on as best as he could, doing his damndest to make sure that Dean’s soul was firmly back in place. When he was sure that it was there, that everything was in correct working order, he let his hand draw away. Unfortunately, his exhaustion kicked in and he found himself slumping down, too tired to do anything but slump down onto the bed.

In a flash, Sam was there, gently gathering him up. “Loki? Loki!”

“’S fine.” Gabriel slurred out. His grace was sorely depleted and he needed rest, desperately, but he leaned himself into Sam. “Jus’ tired. Need to rest… both of us…”

“Dean…”

“Alive.” Gabriel said. It was the last thing he got out before the world went dark around him.


How long Gabriel was out, he had no idea. But when he woke up again he found himself feeling a whole lot better than the last time. A quick internal check showed him that his grace was still low, but it wasn’t dangerously low anymore. It’d had time to heal and recover. A few more days of rest and he’d be back to normal. In the meantime, his pagan power was still just as strong and he could rely on that for a while. It’d certainly make his healing go by a bit faster.

When he opened his eyes Gabriel wasn’t sure what he’d expected to find. Whatever it was, it hadn’t been the hunter sitting across from him.

Gabriel looked around and realized that he was lying on the couch in his living room. The coffee table was the only thing that separated him and Sam at the moment. That was probably a good thing, too, judging by the way that Sam was looking at him. His grace-soul was muted inside of him, like he was holding himself very carefully, and his face was a blank mask. All except for his eyes. Those were watching Gabriel with a sharpness that said he was taking in every single detail.

Falling back on his trickster persona, Gabriel rubbed at his face as he sat up. “Wow, kiddo. Creepy much?”

Sam didn’t even flinch. He just watched as Gabriel carefully sat up. “You’ve been out for about eighteen hours now. You and Dean both.”

“Yeah.” Resisting the urge to rub at his face, a purely human gesture, Gabriel sat up the rest of the way. He fought back the urge to wince as his wings gave a little tug behind him. They were still tender and he knew he was going to have to go through and pluck out the feathers that had gotten singed along the way. “Deanie boy’s probably gonna sleep for another day, maybe two. I knocked him out so his body has time to heal up and mesh with his soul again. It’ll make it easier on him when he wakes up.”

“You’re not a trickster.” Sam said, his voice gone flat. He kept his eyes locked right on Gabriel and it reminded the archangel of the person that Sam had become back in Broward County. This was a dangerous, volatile Sam, one that could swing one way or the other with little provocation.

Gabriel had known from the instant he’d left here that he was going to have to explain everything. That’d become part of the plan for a while now; he’d just hoped to keep putting it off. But this, rescuing Dean from Hell, that upped the timetables. Not just because Sam had seen Gabriel do something that shouldn’t be possible; if he wanted, he could’ve come up with an excuse to explain that, or he could’ve wiped it from Sam’s memory and made it look like he did some kind of deal. No, he had to explain because these hunters needed to know what they were now up against. What Gabriel had just stopped – and what it would mean for their future. With all that in mind, Gabriel made himself look right at Sam. “I am. But that’s not all I am.”

“What are you?”

“I’m an angel.” Gabriel said softly. For the first time in a long, long time, he was saying the one thing that he’d sworn never to admit to, letting out a secret he’d kept hidden. There was none of the fear in saying it like he’d thought there might be. Just a sense of relief – of coming home. “Archangel, actually. They call me…”

“…Gabriel.”

Sam’s voice was even lower than Gabriel’s, just a whisper in the air. But it was enough to freeze everything. Gabriel sat utterly still and stared at the man across from him. Sam’s eyes were wide and they carried that same look that had been there the night they’d spoken about the past. The night that Sam had showed him at least some part of him remembered things, even if it wasn’t consciously. But, he’d never expected Sam to remember this. To actually know his name. Gabriel was stunned as he stared at him. “Sam?”

“How…” Sam paused and cleared his throat, his voice cracking ever so slightly as he tried to speak again. “How is that… how is that possible? I didn’t…” Something that looked like pain flashed over Sam’s features. His eyes narrowed down and then closed briefly and his whole expression became pinched. “I don’t…”

The shock in Gabriel was giving way to something else – fear. He sat forward, his own exhaustion forgotten for the moment, every ounce of him focused on Sam. He could actually see it as the hunter’s headache grew and his grace flared briefly inside of him.

“What is this?” Sam’s body went tense and he bowed forward a little, a furrow appearing between his brows. “I feel like… like I know you. Like…” A gasp tore past his lips and his hands came up to clutch at his head. “God, what is this? What’re you doing to me?”

In a flash Gabriel was up off the couch and closing the distance between them. “Sammy, Sammy!” Gabriel caught hold of Sam’s hands. He didn’t bother trying to pull them away; instead, he pressed his own flat over top of Sam’s, keeping them in place, forcing his touch to be a bit more gentle. This close, Gabriel could feel the pain that Sam was in. He could feel the way that his mind was practically attacking itself, the grace and demon blood waging a war inside of him. Son of a bitch! How had he not seen this before? How had he not noticed?

Pushing aside his recriminations for later, Gabriel focused on the man in front of him who was moaning, trying to battle past the pain in his head. “Listen to my voice, Sammy. Listen to me. I know it hurts right now and I get it, but I need you to calm down. Just listen to my voice and breathe, okay?” Very gently, Gabriel let a bit of grace into his hands, letting it brush against the grace inside of Sam. He felt the kid gasp and moan, and then he heard him trying his damndest to steady out his breathing. “That’s it. You’re doing good, kiddo. Careful breath in and then slowly, slowly let it out. There you are.”

It took a few minutes of coaxing and a little more grace before Sam was finally able to breathe easily again. The demon blood seemed to have shrunk back down, overpowered by not just the grace in Sam but by Gabriel’s grace as well.

The hunter slumped down into his seat and Gabriel made himself let go, despite how much he wanted to hold on.

“What was that?” Sam groaned. He rubbed a hand over his face, blinking a few times to clear his eyes. Then they were focusing on Gabriel. “It was like a vision but eighty times worse. What happened?”

He asked the question with so much openness, so much trust, it left Gabriel floored. After everything, after all the things he’d put Sam through and all the stuff that had happened, after revealing to Sam that he was an angel, the kid was looking at him with so much trust it almost stole Gabriel’s voice away. It also made it practically impossible for him to lie. “There’s a… block in your brain. One that’s keeping you from seeing some things clearly.”

“A block? For what? And who put it there?”

“It wasn’t me.” Gabriel said quickly. “I think it has something to do with the demon blood. It’s, fighting you.” It was keeping the grace that Sam carried from responding to Gabriel’s grace. That was the only thing that made sense. The kid’s grace was reacting to Gabriel’s because it recognized it. But each time it tried, each time something slipped through, the demon blood pushed forward and fought it back down again.

Sam furrowed his brows. “You know what’s in there.”

It was hard, but Gabriel made himself say what he knew he had to here. “I do. But I can’t tell you.”

He watched Sam’s eyes go wide and his eyebrows shoot up almost to his hairline. “What do you mean, you can’t?”

“Sorry, kiddo. I can do plenty of things, but that right there aint something I can mess with.” That was the best that Sam was going to get right now. It was the best that Gabriel could give. Raziel had said that the person he’d be wouldn’t be ready to know things right away and he was right. There was too much else going on, too many things for Sam to deal with. Once they got past all that, maybe they’d talk then. But right now they needed to focus on the more immediate problem. Planting his hands on his knees, Gabriel pushed himself up off the ground, wrapping the mental cloak of the trickster around himself as he did. It allowed him to smirk a little as he stood there and looked down at the younger Winchester. “Focus on what’s important at the moment, kiddo. We got bigger things to deal with right now.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“What do you know about the apocalypse?”

Chapter Text

Sam sat by his brother’s bedside and stared down at the sleeping body in front of him. There was a good part of his attention that was focused directly on Dean, on watching the rise and fall of his chest, the way that he twitched in his sleep, all the little signs that showed that Dean was still there, that he was alive. No matter what else was going on, all the thoughts in Sam’s head, he still couldn’t believe that his brother was actually here. That he was alive!

However, even as he watched Dean sleep – a sleep Gabriel assured him the hunter would wake from as soon as his body was ready – there was another part of Sam that was running over everything Gabriel had just told him.

The fact that the being he’d thought of as the trickster, as Loki, was in actuality the archangel Gabriel wasn’t one of the things that Sam was marveling over, though it did scare him just how easily he believed it. But there’d never been any second of denial in him. Sam felt the truth of the words straight down to his core. He’d known it even before Gabriel had said it. There’d just been a part of him that had known, even if he wasn’t quite sure how. That claim was only backed by the fact that Gabriel had actually gone down into Hell and brought Dean back.

No, it was the rest of it that Sam was stuck on. All the things that Gabriel had told him as they’d sat out there in the living room.

The apocalypse.

Just thinking it was enough to have Sam shuddering. Heaven was real, just like Hell, and apparently the apocalypse was coming. Or, would have been coming, if Gabriel had left Dean where he was. And it is written, that the first seal shall be broken when a righteous man sheds blood in Hell. As he breaks, so shall it break. Dean had been meant to go to Hell, meant to break on the rack and, according to Gabriel, start torturing souls. That was the key to breaking the first seal on the Cage that imprisoned Lucifer deep in Hell.

When Sam had firmly insisted that Dean would never, Gabriel had given him a look of such gentleness and pity that it’d left Sam speechless. “He wouldn’t have been able to help himself, kiddo. Time down there, it runs faster than up here. A month up here is equivalent to ten years down there. And the whole time, they would’ve been torturing him, doing everything they could to break him, and there would’ve been no end in sight. You’re already dead, so there’s no death at the end to hold out for. Just more and more torture. The only promise of relief he would’ve had would be to get off the rack and pick up the knife. It wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ he broke – it was a matter of ‘when’. Everyone breaks in the end.”

It made Sam sick. To think of what his brother had gone through, and how much more he could’ve gone through if Gabriel hadn’t saved him, and all of it because he’d had to rescue Sam – it made the young hunter sick.

Things didn’t get any better from there. Gabriel had told him that the apocalypse was fated. That it was destined. “Angels have to have vessels to be on earth, kiddo. We’re made up of something called grace. Humans can’t look at it without a lot of eyeball melting and ear shattering, so if we wanna deal with humans, we have to have vessels.”

“You mean you possess people?” Sam hadn’t been able to keep the disgust out of his voice.

To his surprise, Gabriel hadn’t gotten upset. He’d just sighed and shrugged a shoulder. “Yeah. I mean, my family, they’ll tell you it’s different. We gotta get permission to enter a vessel. They’ve got to say Yes to us. But, in the end – yeah, it’s possession. An regular angels can be careful enough to usually make sure they leave the human okay when they’re done. But archangels, we’re too much. We burn out most vessels we’re in.”

“So how’re you…?”

“My vessel was handmade. A trick only one angel knew,” Something sad had crossed Gabriel’s face then, something that had made Sam’s heart clench in his chest. “He made me mine before he… vanished. So don’t worry, there’s no soul in here with me.” Then the sadness had left Gabriel’s face and the trickster mask had slid back in. “But for my brothers not quite awesome enough to have a homemade beauty like mine, we have what’s called out True Vessel. Humans that are perfectly designed to house us.”

It hadn’t been hard to figure out where Gabriel was going with that. Sam had always been the one to piece together puzzles. He loved them. This one hadn’t been difficult. “We’re vessels.”

“Not just any vessels. You’re the vessels. The ones needed for the prizefight my brothers wanna have.”

Sam let out a shaky sigh and bowed his head. Elbows on his knees, he buried his face in his hands. It wasn’t any easier thinking about it now than it had been when Gabriel had said it. He and Dean were vessels. Vessels. And not just any vessels. Oh, no, of course not. They had to be the vessels for Michael and Lucifer themselves. The two most important humans in the entire apocalypse. The ones destined to help them break the world. That was why Ruby had come into his life. She hadn’t been there to help him free Dean from his deal – she’d been there to trick him and train him and manipulate him until he helped to break the last seal that would set Lucifer free.

It was after that that Sam had left. He’d simply gotten up and walked away. Whatever else Gabriel had to tell him could just wait. This… this was too much.

Escaping in here to sit with Dean hadn’t allowed him to escape his own thoughts, though. All of it was circling around over and over in Sam’s mind. Demons, angels, seals, Lucifer, vessels, Ruby, the apocalypse.

“What are we gonna do?” Sam mumbled, barely even noticing that he was speaking out loud. He slid his head enough to press the heels of his hands into his eyes in hopes of combating the headache that seemed to be lingering from before. “What the hell are we gonna do?”

There was a moment of quiet and then Sam heard a low, hoarse murmur. “You could start by not looming like a creeper.”

Sam’s head snapped up and his eyes were wide as his gaze shot right to Dean’s face. Familiar green eyes were squinting against the light of the room, but they were open and alert, and Sam made a choked sound in his throat at the sight of them. Even the glare that Dean was leveling his way was wonderful to see. The fact that his brother was alive to glare at him meant more than anything in the world. Sam had been full of hope, watching Dean’s sleeping body. Now that he was awake that hope gave way to a huge swell of relief and joy that took his voice away. “Dean!”

“What’s going on?”

A groan came from Dean as he started to push himself on the bed, and Sam immediately moved forward to help him. He ignored his brother’s attempts to swat him away and braced Dean up as he tried to sit up. “Woah, Dean, take it easy. You need to rest, man.”

Of course, Dean ignored his words. He let Sam help him up and then finally succeeded in shoving his hands away. The young hunter was surprised by his brother’s strength. Though he supposed he shouldn’t be. Gabriel had said he’d healed him.

“Quit fussing over me.” Dean grumbled, sounding so normal Sam was ashamed to admit it actually made his throat tighten and his eyes burn a little. There was such a familiar exasperation in Dean’s voice, one that Sam had been sure he’d never hear again. Hearing it, Sam did the only thing that he could do. He reached out for his brother again, only this time he yanked him in for a hug. One that Dean returned after just a brief hesitation.

They weren’t big huggers in their family. Not unless someone was really hurt, or dying. Apparently they could add coming back from the dead to that list.

Sam held tightly to Dean, almost afraid to let him go. Afraid that he’d be gone again. Afraid that once more he’d be here, curled up next to an empty shell. As if he sensed that, Dean squeezed him a little tighter, and the walls that usually were up around them came down for that brief moment. “Hey, hey.” Pulling Sam in, Dean rested his chin on top of his little brother’s head just as he’d done when they were kids – Sam hadn’t even noticed as he dropped off his seat and down to his knees, only that he was right up against Dean and Dean was alive! – and he stopped being Dean Winchester, hunter, for the moment and just became Sam’s big brother. “I got you, little brother. It’s all right.”

“Don’t you ever do that to me again.” Sam murmured against Dean’s chest. The amulet that Sam had clutched to before was now pressed between them.

He felt Dean’s chuckle, heard the hitch of his breath mix in with the beat of his heart, and it was wonderful to hear sound again where there had been none. “Not planning on it, tiger. Calm down.”

For a moment longer the two stayed where they were. Dean was the one to finally break them apart. With a ruffle to Sam’s hair and one last squeeze, he detached them. Sam took his cue and sat back, though he couldn’t quite bring himself to his feet yet. Couldn’t make himself get up and pull away entirely. He needed to be close at the moment.

However, reality wasn’t going to be held back any longer, and Sam saw the most important question coming even before it passed his brother’s lips. “What did you do, Sam?” Dean pushed the blankets off his legs and let them drop down to the ground. It made it so he was facing Sam, who still knelt beside the bed. Not even the sharp glare Dean was leveling his way was enough to take away the warm feeling in Sam’s chest.

“Dean…” Couldn’t they just enjoy him being back, just for a moment?

Temper flashed hot and bright in Dean’s eyes. “I was dead. I know I was dead. I remember… I remember being down there. So how am I back here? Dammit, what did you do?”

A voice came from the direction of the doorway. “Don’t worry, baby bro remains the only Winchester who hasn’t made a deal with a demon.”

The two spun to look at the door – Dean was shocked while Sam was simply resigned. He’d known Gabriel wouldn’t stay away. Not once Dean was up. Most likely the only reason he hadn’t come in before was to give them their quiet moment together. But now that Dean was demanding answers, Gabriel was here, and a small part of Sam was grateful that he wasn’t going to have to explain it all himself. When he caught Gabriel’s eye, the wink he got told him that the trickster – no, archangel, not a trickster, don’t forget that – had probably heard his thoughts.

You!” Dean snarled out. He made as if to rise, only to stop.

As Sam pushed up to his feet, he got a better view of Dean’s face and could see the strange look there. The way his brow had furrowed and his mouth was frozen half open.

Gabriel chuckled at the look Dean wore. “So you do remember. I wasn’t sure if you would. I tried to seal off your Hell memories but I wasn’t sure what would slip through.”

You’re the one who rescued me?”

“Yep!” Grinning, Gabriel leaned his shoulder against the door frame.

Sam stood quietly beside the bed and watched as Dean’s face went through a multitude of expressions. Confusion, shock, curiosity, gratitude, worry, suspicion. It was that last one that it settled on. “What are you?”

“Why don’t we go sit down for some breakfast, first? I’ll tell you everything while you eat.”

The uncharacteristically serious voice was enough to stop Dean from any more snarky comments, at least for the moment. Sam knew he was only just holding himself back. If Dean didn’t start getting some answers, he was going to start to shout. Not that he wasn’t going to shout at the answers he got, anyways. This was going to piss Dean off. For that alone, Sam sort of wanted to hang back, to fade into the background and just let Gabriel handle everything. At the same time he wanted to reach out and grab onto Dean and not let him go. He was alive. He was alive!

Sam settled for following right on Dean’s heels out towards the dining room. The two hunters sat side by side, with Gabriel directly across from them. Dean didn’t touch the food, didn’t even look at the coffee that Gabriel snapped up in front of both of them. Sam wrapped both hands around his own mug, but Dean just stared right at Gabriel. “Okay, we’re here. Start explaining.”

“Rude.” Gabriel murmured under his breath. Then he rolled his eyes and sighed. “First things first, it might make a bit more sense if I tell you who I really am. I’m not just Loki, awesome though he may be. A long time ago, I also went by Gabriel. The archangel Gabriel, actually.”

Into the stunned silence that followed, Gabriel once more began to tell his tale. This time Sam wasn’t in as much of a state of shock as he listened to it. Still, it wasn’t any easier to hear the second time around. He listened as the archangel told Dean about how much they’d been manipulated and pushed around, all so that two archangels could have their little prizefight – with Sam and Dean as the stars. Vessels, Gabriel called it. True vessels. It sounded a lot like possession to Sam. Having your body taken over. The only difference he could see from demons was that they didn’t bother asking first and pretending like their way was better.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Gabriel flinch and felt a bit of guilt. That guilt was quickly squashed down. He wasn’t to blame if Gabriel happened to overhear something he didn’t like while eavesdropping on Sam’s thoughts!

When Gabriel reached the end of what he’d told Sam, he paused to give them a second to process.

Clenching his hands on his cup, Sam carefully watched his brother out of the corner of his eye, waiting for some kind of response. Anything.

What he got wasn’t what he’d expected. “So Ruby was trying to manipulate Sam into setting Lucifer free?” Turning, he shot a glare of pure big-brother annoyance at Sam.

Seriously? That was all Dean got out of this whole thing? Sam fought back a scowl. Of all the things that Gabriel had said the one thing that Dean stuck on was Ruby and her manipulation? Annoyance pushed away some of Sam’s nerves. “If you say anything that even comes close to ‘I told you so’, I’m going to punch you.”

Even as Dean opened his mouth – no doubt with some kind of ‘I told you so’ ready to come spilling out – he was cut off by Gabriel. “Can we focus on the bigger picture here?” His voice was heavy with irritation and he had that stern look on his face like Sam had seen on Bobby’s face plenty of times when the Winchester brothers started to argue a little too much and Bobby had to pull them back on track. To see Gabriel filling that role at the moment was almost amusing.

“The bigger picture?” Dean turned back to look at Gabriel after only a brief second of hesitation. “What’s there to worry about? I mean, this sounds like shit, yeah, but it also sounds like you stopped it before it could get going. I didn’t… well, y’know…” Break. The word was unspoken but they all heard it nonetheless.

“No, you didn’t.” Gabriel agreed. “But that doesn’t mean it’s all gonna just stop. I just threw a giant freaking wrench in destiny’s plans. Trust me, that’s not something the universe – or my brothers – is going to take lightly. They’re gonna want to know what happened an how on Dad’s earth you got outta hell. They’re gonna have questions, an I doubt they’ll be gentle asking them – with any of us.”

Something rose up inside of Sam at that comment. A wave of protectiveness for his brother, the same as he’d always felt any time Dean was in danger. What stunned him was the amount of protectiveness he felt for Gabriel. The archangel was more than capable of taking care of himself. He’d proved that time and time again. Hell, he was a freaking archangel! Yet it didn’t stop Sam from wanting to grab him and pull him in close. Can’t let them hurt him. That thought throbbed inside of Sam like a wound on his heart. An aching need that demanded that he protect this powerful being in front of him the way that Gabriel had always protected him. Keeping Gabriel safe was the most important thing, the whole reason he’d done this to begin with…

Pain lanced across Sam’s head, spearing through his temples and straight into his brain, dragging a groan past his lips.

He never registered as he slumped down in his chair or as Dean’s hands caught hold of him. Sam’s head was pounding out a drumbeat of agony and all he could hear was one word over and over in his mind.

Protect, protect, protect, protect.

Then fingers touched his head and coolness washed over him.

The last thing Sam registered was his brother’s arms tightening around him before the whole world went dark.

Chapter Text

Gabriel fought hard to keep the panic at bay as he stared down at the figure lying on the bed in front of him. Not even an hour ago Dean had been lying on this bed and Sam was the one standing vigil as he waited for his brother to wake up. Now it was Sam lying there and Dean was the one standing watch. The demeanor of both men was quite different now that the roles were reversed. Sam had been so still he’d almost been a statue while he waited for Dean to wake. Dean – Dean was a barely contained storm, all panic and fury, ready to lash out at anyone and anything that got too close. “Fix him!” He demanded of Gabriel, glaring up at him from where he sat at his brother’s side, mopping his brow with a cloth. “You’re a damn archangel, so get your holy ass over here and help him!”

Any other time and Gabriel might’ve snapped at the hunter for talking to him that way. As it was, in that moment Gabriel was having a hard time keeping his own control.

Whereas Dean had laid there still, almost too still, while he’d been in this bed, Sam was the exact opposite. He was tossing and turning, sweat slicking his face and pain lines marring his brow, and to Gabriel’s eyes it was easy to see the battle going on inside of him as his grace surged up stronger than ever before and the demon blood fought to strike it back down. This time, the grace wasn’t willing to be pushed away and it was fighting with all its strength to stay strong, to win. The only thing was, it was grace, yes, but just a bit of it. Not enough to stand against the demon blood that was inside of Sam. That blood was so damn strong. It was the blood of a fallen-angel-turned-demon and could stand up to grace better than normal demon blood. The little sliver of Raziel’s grace wasn’t enough to win – it was, however, stubborn enough not to give up.

Ever since Gabriel had found out who Sam was, he’d held himself back from revealing the truth in any way, shape or form. ‘Who you find won’t be ready for the knowledge yet of who I truly am.’ Raziel had written to him. ‘You’ll need to be patient with the human version of me, as you were once patient with the fledgling who followed you everywhere and begged answers to so many questions. You’ll know when the time is right to reveal the truth.

Nothing had seemed right before this.  There’d been no moment where Gabriel could honestly say that it had felt right to let out a secret this giant. Sam hadn’t been ready. Gabriel hadn’t been ready. Thousands upon thousands of worries or insecurities had held him back for himself just as much as they had for Sam.

Yet, as he stared down at Sam’s thrashing figure, Gabriel knew. He knew. He couldn’t put this off any longer. He couldn’t stand there and let Sam be in this kind of pain. If he didn’t step in and stop the war going on inside of Sam’s body, there might not be anything left by the time it was done.

Gabriel’s spine straightened and his wings snapped out to either side of him as resolve flowed through his grace. His steps were steady and confident as he strode right up to the bed. There was no hesitation when he reached out with one hand to lay two fingers against Sam’s temple. Just one single pause, a softly whispered “I’m sorry, Sammy” and then he raised his voice back to normal as he warned Dean “Close your eyes. This is gonna get bright and I don’t think you wanna be blinded.”

Only when Gabriel was sure that Dean’s eyes were closed did he let his grace pour down his fingers and into Sam’s body.

Burning away the demon blood was pitifully easy for Gabriel’s grace. He wasn’t a weak little sliver like Raziel’s grace was. His was much stronger and was backed by the power of his pagan side. Even after his stint to Hell, his powers were still strong enough for this. Between one breath and the next he burnt the blood right out of Sam’s system. And in doing so, he unlocked the doors that had been almost welded shut Sam’s entire life.

The relief was instant. Sam’s body slumped down and the grace inside of him quieted before vibrating happily, like a content kitten’s purr. Gabriel chuckled at the comparison. Raziel would’ve swatted at him for daring to say that or even think it.

Gabriel slowly pulled his grace back inside, resisting the urge to reach out to Raziel as he did.

When he opened his eyes he found that Dean was alternating between staring at him and staring at Sam. A hint of a smile touched Gabriel’s lips that he hoped Dean wasn’t able to see was mostly forced. “Next time you should wait till I tell you it’s okay to open your eyes. Unless you like having burned out sockets where your eyes used to be.”

“What’d you do to him?”

As usual, Dean skipped right over any concern for himself and moved straight on to what was important to him – Sam.

“Fixed him.” It was the only answer Gabriel was going to give right now. “He should sleep for a little while. When he wakes, he should be able to explain it all to you.” For a brief second Gabriel paused and his eyes flashed down towards Sam. A Sam whose little slice of grace seemed to be glowing brighter than ever before. Gabriel’s own grace pulsed in response, aching to reach out and yet suddenly so very terrified to do so. What if Raziel was furious with him? What if this was too early? What if… what if Gabriel had been supposed to stop Dean going to Hell and he hadn’t? Or, more than that – what if Raziel hated Gabriel for running away and becoming Loki? For not sticking around and stopping things?

Swallowing down the sudden lump in his throat, a gesture that was far too human for comfort, Gabriel took a step back from the bed. “Tell your brother to call me when he wakes up. If he wants.” It was hard to make his voice casual and he had a feeling he failed completely at it, judging by the sharp look Dean was giving him. Gabriel shook his wings out and knew he needed to get out of here before he made an even bigger fool of himself. “I should go check the wards and make sure none of our recent light shows drew any unwanted visitors. I’ll be… around.” Without waiting another second, Gabriel opened up his wings and flew away.


He was falling.

He was Falling.

It was agony – sheer and absolute agony, unlike anything he’d ever known. A pain that was nothing like anything he’d even understood existed. His grace was screaming, wings burning.

Make it stop, make it stop, makeitstopmakeitstoppleaseDadpleasemakeitstop!

The tear in his grace grew stronger and he screamed in a voice with no sound as his very being ripped itself apart.


He was Julius, a twenty three year old man ready to fight a war.


He was Santino, laughing and twirling in the twilight as he spun his lover against him.


He was Marie, staring at a husband she didn’t want, facing a home that wasn’t a home, with her chin held high and determination in every step.


He was Dustin….

He was Ashley…

He was Liam….

He was…

He was Sam…

Sam…

Raziel…

Sam…

Raziel…

“Sammy!”


“Sammy!”

The sound of his brother’s voice shouting broke through the stream of pain and memories that had poured over Sam and sucked him under. His mind was a scattered mess full of hundreds – thousands – of memories that he couldn’t think on, couldn’t grasp hold of. They were pushing and shoving and trying to bring themselves to the forefront only to get shoved away for another and another and another until he was drowning under them.

The only thing that kept his head above water was the sound of his brother’s voice calling his name in the tone Sam had been programed to obey, and the hands that clenched firmly on his arms and kept him still and steady as the world broke apart and remade itself around him.

“Dean.” The word ripped its way out of him from a throat that felt painfully raw. Sam couldn’t help himself, couldn’t stop the childlike need to cling to the most sturdy thing in his universe at the moment. “De!”

He heard low cursing from Dean and then those solid arms were around him and Sam clung tightly to them without any ounce of shame. He didn't feel ashamed of the way he clung, the tears that poured from his eyes, none of it. He held on to Dean and let the pain and the memories wash their way over him. Every second of pain, of happiness, all of it was there, played in fast forward through his mind. Years, thousands  of years, so many lifetimes, and all of it full o fa pain and emptiness that he'd never been able to understand, that he couldn't place. Not until here. Not until now.

The soul inside him – grace, his mind corrected, the word and knowledge pushing forward, it's grace not a soul – was screaming out for the one being that should be here and wasn't. The one he wanted to see as much as, if not more, than he wanted Dean here.

Gabriel.

But he wasn't here. He wasn't here and Dean was – just like Dean always was. Sam clung to him and sobbed as he tried to find his center in a hurricane of pain.


It took almost an hour for Sam to finally start to settle. An hour of clinging to a brother who never once moved, who never even tried to stop him. Dena stayed there and kept Sam in the safety of his embrace as Sam cried out the pain of lifetimes. Then he held him after when Sam was too weak to do more than just lay there and shiver while the memories he’d gained finally started to settle down into something resembling order.

When the shaking and the crying finally faded away, and when Sam had been lying there quietly for a few moments, Dean finally dared to speak. “Sammy?”

“Sorry.” Sam croaked, sounding hoarse.

“Shut up.” The response was immediate and it was so like Dean it made Sam smile. “Just talk to me, little brother. Do I gotta go kick some archangel ass or something?”

The threat made Sam want to laugh. Not just because Dean stood no chance against Gabriel, but because of what Sam was about to tell him. He wasn’t sure how to put it, how to say something like this to Dean, though. Unfortunately, his exhausted mind wasn’t quick enough to stop his mouth, and he blurted out the very first thing that came to mind. “Whose – mine or Gabe’s?”

That had Dean going very, very still. “What?”

Well there was no going back now. The cat was out of the bag and Sam wasn’t going to be able to put Dean off. Sam took one last moment to stay there in the circle of his brother’s arms. Then, with a sigh, he drew himself away and sat up. Dean stayed where he’d been. His arms dropped down but his eyes were fixed right on Sam.

Another sigh slipped from Sam. This isn’t going to be easy. The pounding in his head wasn’t going to make it any easier, either. Everything that had come crashing back in, every single memory from every single life that he’d lived, all of it was so much, and the only thing that kept him from exploding was that his body – this vessel, Jesus, it was strange to think of it like that, and yet at the same time so damn normal – was made for an archangel. Made from an archangel. It could handle so much more than the average human mind.

“Dean,” Lifting a hand, Sam rubbed it over his face, trying to ignore the way his hand shook. How was Dean going to take this? He’d just discovered today that angels actually existed. How would he handle knowing that his brother was one? “Sometimes, when an angel rebels, or when they have an important enough reason, they don’t all fight back like Lucifer and the others did. Sometimes… sometimes an angel chooses to Fall. They literally rip out their grace and keep just a tiny shred of it, which falls to earth and merges with a child at the point that a human soul normally would, and they’re born a human child – one with absolutely no memories of Heaven.”

He watched as Dean’s eyes grew wider and wider with each passing word. The disbelief was easy to read on his face and Sam swore he could almost feel it. Like his tiny little grace was picking up on it. “Are you seriously telling me…”

“That I used to be an angel.” Sam finished for him, voice soft. His mouth quirked up in a little smile. “Archangel, actually. My name was Raziel.”

“Bullshit.” Dean snapped. It didn’t surprise Sam that this was Dean’s response. He’d known that his brother wouldn’t believe it. Dean glared at him and pushed up from the bed, like distance was going to make this better, make him somehow not have to have this conversation. “That’s bullshit. You’re not a freaking angel. An angel condom, yeah. Gabe just told us about that. But I think I’d know if my baby brother was a freaking archangel, dude. You’re not… you’re not one of them. You’re Sammy, my snot nosed kid brother.”

Sam’s smile grew a little more. “Yeah, I am.” Subtle wasn’t going to work here; not with Dean. He needed it blunt and in his face. So Sam pushed himself up on shaky legs and stood as well, not backing down. “I am Sam. And I’m Raziel. I’m also Liam, and Dustin, and Santino. Marie. Julius. Ashley. Pablo. Tarush. Mee-Cal. Jared.” He took a step forward, spreading his hands out in a gesture meant for peace. “I’ve lived so many human lives and I never once knew who I was. The grace in me was always dormant, never rising up. Not until now. Between the demon blood in me and the grace in Gabriel, it woke mine up. That’s what the headaches were. The two parts of me were fighting.”

“And Gabriel? What the hell did he do to you?” Dean spat it out like an accusation, like somehow Gabriel had done all of this, put these ideas in Sam’s head. Most likely that’s what Dean would accuse him of.

“He burned out the demon blood and tore down the walls that blocked my memories. He helped me remember.” He found me and he saved me – just like I knew he would. And now it’s my turn to save him. “I promise, Dean, we’ll explain everything as best as we can, we really will. But we need Gabriel here for this. You’ll get your questions answered as soon as he gets here. There’s a lot I really don’t want to say twice.”

Dean didn’t look the least bit happy about having to wait. His eyes were stormy and his mouth was set in a hard line. “Not too sure if he’s still around. He said to call him if you wanted him around or something like that.”

If he wanted him around? Sam played those words over in his mind and quickly shook his head. That idiot. That absolute idiot. Sam knew exactly what was going on here and he would be damned if he let it continue. Forcing his legs steady, he moved towards the doorway, calling out loudly as he went. “Loki!” No need to call out Gabriel’s name and announce his location to everyone. “Loki Odinson, get down here right now! I wanna have a word with you!”

He marched down the hall and straight towards the living room. Something told him that’s where he’d find his errant brother.

Sure enough, Gabriel stood there in the middle of the living room, his trickster mask firmly in place as he waited calmly for Sam. He was looking right at him as Sam came into the room and there was nothing in his eyes to reveal what he really felt. Sam cursed the fact that he couldn’t see Gabriel’s wings and be able to read him that way.

Oh well. Sam pushed aside his own worries about Gabriel’s anger and did the only thing that made any sort of sense to them. Sam ignored Dean behind him and strolled right up to Gabriel and grabbed a hold of his jacket. There was a split second where he could enjoy the stunned look on Gabriel’s face right before Sam slammed their lips together and kissed him for all he was worth. Gabriel floundered for a moment and then latched on to Sam, pulling him in. Sam knew Gabriel could hold him and so he didn’t hesitate to follow those hands and practically scale the smaller man, ignoring Dean’s disgusted and annoyed shout behind him.

He gave a pleased hum as Gabriel’s hands cupped his backside and held him close so that Sam was free to wrap his legs around Gabriel’s waist and move his hands up to his face to better be able to hold him in place as he plundered his mouth.

When Sam broke the kiss, the both of them were panting. The younger Winchester stayed where he was and made sure to stare right into Gabriel’s eyes so that he’d be able to see and feel just how serious Sam was here. “You idiot.” He said firmly, his words threaded with all the love and tenderness this exasperating creature inspired in him. “You absolute idiot. How on Dad’s earth could you think that I’d be angry with you?”

He swore that he saw the grace behind Gabriel’s eyes give a happy little leap. Then it muted again and his expression turned just a bit hesitant. “I’m not who I used to be, Raz. Who I became…”

“Is who I love, no matter what. How could you ever think otherwise?”

This time he didn’t just have to see the joy on Gabriel’s face. He felt it in the grace that reached out to wrap around him and cradle him oh so gently. There, wrapped around the archangel he’d always loved, Sam felt like he was home for the first time in thousands of years.

So naturally that was when Dean had to step in.

Apparently the older Winchester had finally reached the stage of ‘enough’ and wasn’t content to just stand on the sidelines and be ignored any longer while his baby brother molested the archangel that they had thought was just a trickster only a day ago. “All right, that’s enough!” Dean snapped loudly, his voice breaking into their little moment. “Someone’s going to start explaining things right now or I’m gonna start kicking some ass.”

A half laugh bubbled up Sam’s throat and was barely swallowed down. He knew he should be worried right now; there was so much going on, so much in his head, and so many things he needed to explain. But in that moment he couldn’t really bring himself to worry about them yet. Dean was back – his brother was alive. And Sam had Gabriel right here in front of him, wrapped up tightly in him and around him. For just one moment Sam wanted to be selfish and enjoy the peace. Enjoy the fact that the two people he loved most in all of Creation were alive and well.

His thoughts must’ve been easy for Gabriel to read because the archangel grinned at him. “We can celebrate later, kiddo. I think your brother’s about to bust a vein over there and I really don’t want him to damage all my hard work.” Then that grin shifted, showed just a hint of something serious underneath. “Besides, I think I’d like a few answers myself.”

This time Sam had to try not to sigh. Oh, yeah. This was going to be fun.

Chapter Text

There was no way that Sam was willing to part from Gabriel in that moment, nor did he want to be all that far from Dean. So the trio ended up in the living room with Sam and Gabriel taking up the couch and Dean in the chair that Sam had sat in not that long ago, where he’d first had the almost mind shattering migraine that Gabriel had helped him through. Dean didn’t look too happy about the seating arrangements; obviously he wanted Sam with him. But he must’ve realized that Sam wasn’t going to entirely let go of the trickster. Even after Gabriel had put a reluctant Sam down, the two hadn’t broken contact completely. Their hands were laced together between them and Sam sat as close as humanly possible.

He’d been without this for so long – without Gabriel for so long. Every part of him, straight down to that tiny sliver of grace inside of him, was demanding he keep close to the angel that he’d always loved more than any other.

“So let me get this straight.” Dean said, looking over to Gabriel and then back over to Sam again. His eyes fixed firmly on his brother. “You’re telling me that you’re a fallen angel?”

“Archangel.” Gabriel corrected, a smug grin touching his lips.

Ducking his head, Sam shot Gabriel a glare. “Not helping, Gabriel.” Antagonizing Dean was the last thing they needed to do right now. He was already upset and stressed. Who could blame him, really? Today had been, well, it’d been huge for him. Considering everything he’d been through recently – dying, going to Hell, being freaking tortured, rescued by an archangel, dumped back in his body, waking up, being told that angels existed and the apocalypse was trying to come – that was a whole hell of a lot to deal with! Now, add in finding out that his brother was actually an angel, an archangel, was it any wonder he looked pissed off? No one knew Dean better than Sam and Sam knew that Dean was quickly reaching his breaking point where he’d need to get the hell out of here before exploding at them. If he thought it would work, he’d tell Dean that they’d talk tomorrow and just let his brother sleep. But there was no way that dean was going to do that. He wanted answers and he had every right to demand them.

Still, it wasn’t like this was an easy story to tell. It was just going to upset everyone. Sam flashed a look over at the being next to him and tried not to sigh. Everyone.

“I know it’s hard to believe, Dean.” Sam finally settled on saying. He turned back to watch his brother and wished that he had the words to make this okay. “I mean, you didn’t even know angels existed until Gabriel here revealed himself. It’s understandable that you’re having a hard time believing this. I don’t… I don’t know how to prove it to you, though.”

Dean lifted his eyebrow and let his gaze flick down Sam and back up to his face again. “Show me your wings. I saw some of short stack’s over here when he flew me up outta the pit…” There was a soft shudder at that, so small most might not have noticed it, at even the mention of hell. “…so, you want me to believe you’re a freaking angel, let’s see those wings.”

“Now hold on…!” Gabriel started to snap, already straightening up and glaring at Dean.

Sam quickly squeezed Gabriel’s hand in a request for silence. Let me handle this, Gabriel. Calm down. He did his best to send that thought to the archangel. Then before Gabriel could say anything else, Sam hurried to speak. “It’s not that simple, Dean. For one, humans can’t typically see anything more than the shadow of an angel’s wings. Grace to a human is light so bright it’s blinding. Literally. It would burn your eyes right out of your head and I don’t think you want that. Second of all, I can’t. I told you back there, I’m Fallen. I literally ripped my grace apart to fall down to earth. The bit that I have in me still is just a sliver, just enough to mimic a human soul.”

He felt the shudder that ran through Gabriel at the mention of his Falling. Sam stroked his thumb soothingly over Gabriel’s knuckles in silent apology. This whole thing had hurt him, Sam knew. Hurt him so damn bad. It was the biggest regret that Sam had.

“This is insane.” Dean shook his head, his expression clearly disbelieving.

“Why?” Gabriel asked. He raised one eyebrow, though he managed to keep his expression from becoming too cocky. “Because you’ve never heard of it before? Because Daddy didn’t write it down in that little book of his? Newsflash here, bucko. Your Daddy didn’t know everything out there.” There was a harsh bitterness to Gabriel’s words that left no doubt on his opinion of John Winchester. It also immediately put Dean’s back up.

Groaning, Sam palmed his face and wished to Dad he still had some of his powers. It’d be a great help in the next few moments. There was no quicker way to piss off Dean than talk about their father in any light that wasn’t positive.

Sure enough – “Now wait a damn minute!” Dean growled. He sat up straighter and was glaring right at Gabriel now without any of the fear that he really should’ve been smart enough to feel. “You leave my Dad outta this. You’ve got no idea about him and who he was, all right?”

A harsh, mocking laugh came from Gabriel, a sound that Raziel hadn’t known that the archangel was capable of, but that Sam knew all too well. “You think so, Deanie boy?”

This time it was Sam who growled. “Would the both of you just knock it off?” Drawing his hand away from Gabriel, he ran both hands through his hair to push it back from his face. The last thing he wanted to do was sit here and listen to them grumbling and posturing at one another. There were far more important things that needed to be dealt with. Things that he would tell them if they would just stop for a minute!

He felt Gabriel’s hand shift to settle on his back in the place where his wings would connect if he still had them. It was a gesture of comfort and intimacy and one that soothed some of Sam’s nerves down. They were soothed down even more when he caught sight of the apology in Dean’s eyes that no one else would’ve seen. That apology was further given in true Dean fashion – with attitude. “All right, princess, calm down.” He held his hands out palms towards Sam for a moment and then dropped them down to his lap, slouching down a little in the chair. “Say I believe all this crazy buckets of crap. That you and the midget here are actually angels and you ripped out your whatever and fell down to earth.”

Sam couldn’t help it, he rolled his eyes. “Nice, Dean.”

“Say I believe all that.” Dean went on as if Sam hadn’t spoken, ignoring his snark just as easily as he always did. “What I don’t get is why. Why an angel would rip themselves apart and fall down to earth to be human. Or why the hell you’re suddenly remembering now.”

Now they came to the part of things that Sam really hadn’t been looking forward to. The story that he didn’t want to tell. There was so much here that he had to say and so many things that he knew he still couldn’t say. Things that he couldn’t ever tell anyone. This whole thing was so much bigger than even Gabriel probably suspected. How would he take hearing some of the things Sam had discovered? Sam rubbed a hand over his face and wished that the headache still teasing at his temples would finally go away and leave him be for a little bit. Maybe then he’d be able to think. Maybe then he could figure out how to tell these two what was going on.

The hand on Sam’s back rubbed in what was probably meant to be a soothing way. Unfortunately, with his brain working on overdrive, the touch wasn’t soothing. If anything it was a reminder of what was at stake here. And there was still plenty enough of just plain Sam Winchester in him that he reacted in a purely human way to those feelings. Instead of leaning in to them as he wanted to do, he pulled away, going so far as to push up to his feet and pace away from them.

Behind him, Gabriel watched after him with a slightly stunned look on his face. Dean was the only one to see the flash of hurt there before those eyes were shielded again.

Sam stopped a few feet away from them and took a couple steadying breaths. Running away from them wasn’t going to solve this. He needed to talk to them. You knew this day was coming, Sam reminded himself, keeping his mental shields as tight as possible to keep Gabriel from overhearing anything anymore. You know you were going to have to do this. Quit stalling and just get it done. They’ll understand. They had to understand. He wasn’t sure what he’d do if they didn’t. Sam turned himself around and tried not to flinch under the stares that were locked right on him. “It’s a long story. One that I know you already know parts of, Gabriel,” He looked to the archangel that, giving him a tiny smile. “So bear with me a bit, please.”

“I’m not going anywhere, kiddo.”

The promise in those words had Sam nodding. He hoped that Gabriel didn’t regret them by the time this was all done and over with. Sam sighed and leaned back against the wall that he’d stopped at. He focused on Dean; the first part of the story was mostly going to be directed at him. “I don’t really know where to begin to start explaining things. Things in Heaven – they’re not quite what you’d expect, Dean. Angels aren’t quite what you’d expect. We’re not the soft, fluffy guardians humans think of us as. We’re mostly, well… we’re warriors. And archangels are even more so. The lesser angels refer to us as fierce and absolute. Heaven’s most terrifying weapons.”

“Some of us more than others.” Gabriel chimed in. He wasn’t being rude or sharp now, just honestly helping, and so Sam let him continue on and didn’t cut him off. “Just like humans are different, so are angels. Some of us are fighters, some of us are musicians, some of us are healers, an some of us are scholars.” He gave Sam a fond smile at the last part.

Dean snorted and gave Sam a look of amusement that was colored by just a hint of pride. “Not hard to figure out where you’d fit.”

There was no denying that. “I liked learning.” Sam said with a shrug. “It’s one thing the humans got surprisingly right about me.”

The lines around Gabriel’s eyes softened, as did the line of his mouth. One corner of his mouth curve up in the gentlest of smiles. “Raziel was our baby. He was always the most curious little fledgling. I swear, he followed me everywhere, asking me question after question after question, and he soaked it all up like a sponge. There wasn’t anything he didn’t want to learn. If he wasn’t with me, asking questions, he was with Dad, listening and learning. You know,” Amusement colored Gabriel’s voice and he slanted a look Sam’s way, smirking. “The humans call you the Angel of Mysteries and the Keeper of Secrets. The Patron Angel of law makers and lawyers. Kind of apt, don’t you think?”

Color flood Sam’s cheeks. He tried to glare at Gabriel, whose grin grew in response. “Shut up.”

Chuckling, Dean smirked at Sam in that annoying big brother way of his that always made Sam sort of want to punch him in the face. “So even upstairs you were a giant nerd, huh? That sounds about right.”

Great. Was this turning into pick-on-Sam time? The younger Winchester gave his brother a glare that Dean always referred to as a ‘bitchface’, one that clearly said ‘You’re not as funny as you think you are’. It had little effect, just like always. Rolling his eyes, Sam tried to bring them back on track. “Anyways, the point is that I liked to gather information. Any kind of information. I wanted to learn everything, even down to the smallest fact.” Whether it was gleaned from an archangel, a seraph, a cupid, or their Father Himself, Sam had never cared. He just liked to learn.  He just… hadn’t always been prepared for the things that he’d learned.

Sam ran a hand through his hair in a nervous gesture he’d never been able to kick. Things in his story were going to start getting tricky now. “As I got older, I started to learn some things that…well, that I didn’t really want to believe.” That was kind of boiling it down, really taking away chunks of the story, but Sam had to keep in mind that Dean was human here and he’d already had so much dumped on him today. Best to give him just the most basic of facts. The rest could come later. Besides, this wasn’t really anything that Sam was eager to talk about anyways. He crossed his arms over his chest and looked away from the two that were watching him. He didn’t want to look at them as he told all this. “It was after Lucifer was locked away that I started to get some strange facts. Just, little things that didn’t seem big on their own, but when put together with other things I was learning, they painted a disturbing picture. Things about…” Sam bit his lip and closed his eyes, drawing in a breath. “About one of my brothers. About what he was doing, what he was planning. And the methods he was using for his plan.”

“Could you be any more cryptic there, Sammy?” Dean asked.

However, while Dean obviously didn’t understand what Sam was saying, Gabriel did. Sam still wasn’t looking at him but he could feel the pain and anger that radiated out from the archangel’s grace. “Raphael.”

Sam nodded. He kept his gaze averted, not wanting to see the look that would go with the emotions Gabriel was putting off. “I didn’t want to believe it all at first. I thought maybe I was just looking at things wrong, that I was just… piecing the puzzle together wrong. I wished I was. But it just, it got clearer and clearer with every little thing I found out.”

“What was he doing?”

Caught up in his own mind and his memories, Sam didn’t even register which one of them asked him that, he simply answered it. “Planning how to start the apocalypse.” Without giving them time to even react, Sam barreled on, the words tumbling out of him. “Best as I could gather, from the instant the Cage was sealed, Raphael was planning a way to open it back up again and bring out the final battle between Mike and Luce. He thinks that Dad was weak and so was Michael for letting Lucifer live. The War might’ve been over for everyone else but it wasn’t for him. He made his plans and worked his way through the angels to find those to side with him. Those that wouldn’t, or that he felt were too sympathetic towards Lucifer…” The cries of his brothers and sisters filled Sam’s mind and had him wincing and holding on to himself tightly. These were memories he could’ve lived without regaining. The things that Raphael had done, the things he’d condoned his minions to do – it was appalling. “He either sent them on missions, doomed missions, or he, he gave them over to the demons he worked with, the ones helping from that end. He’s been orchestrating this for so long and I couldn’t, there was no way to stop him. Not while I was up there. I had to fall.” Opening his eyes, Sam looked pleadingly at Gabriel. “Don’t you see, Gabe? I had to.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? I knew there was something off, you’d hinted that much, but why on Dad’s earth didn’t you tell me it was that bad?”

“Because if I’d told you, you would’ve gone after him, or you would’ve been there that day, at my side, and you would’ve fought him.”

“You’re damn right I would’ve!” Gabriel said sharply. It wasn’t hard to picture how his wings would be up high behind him in a protective and threatening pose as he pushed up to his feet. For the moment, Dean was forgotten as these two squared off. Gabriel moved towards Sam, glaring at him. “I would’ve made damn sure he never laid a hand on me!”

“And you would’ve lost.” Sam snapped right back. “You would’ve been ready to protect me, Gabe, but you didn’t want to kill our brothers any more than I did. Raphael wouldn’t have cared.” Taking a step forward, Sam lifted a finger and jabbed it in Gabriel’s direction. “He would’ve killed you without even blinking. And then I would’ve ripped Heaven apart to destroy him. Most of our brothers and sisters would’ve been dead by the blast of destruction I would’ve caused.” He saw Gabriel visibly blanch at that and knew that his brother understood. He, more than any other angel, had never underestimated the quiet Raziel. Gabriel knew just how much he’d learned and what kind of damage he was capable of. Seeing that understanding, Sam nodded firmly. In the stunned silence his words caused, he continued on in a softer voice. “I couldn’t be responsible for that. I couldn’t let myself do it.”

“So you left me?” Gabriel’s voice was just as soft as Sam’s now. There was a slightly shaky edge to his words for those who knew how to listen for it. A hint of the pain that he was feeling on the inside.

Sam fought back the urge to turn away and hide. He wasn’t going to hide – Gabriel deserved better than that. “I had to. If I’d stayed, Raph would’ve had me imprisoned or killed for crimes against Heaven. He would’ve made me into a worse outcast than Lucifer.”

“Why?”

The question startled Sam, reminding him of the other person in the room. He looked over and found that Dean had pushed up from his chair as well and was watching him intently. There was no more disbelief in his eyes. Apparently their argument had been enough to convince him. The honest emotion flying back and forth between the two was something that couldn’t be faked. It was enough for Dean to put aside any doubt and push himself into the conversation.

Realizing that Dean had asked him a question, Sam cleared his throat to answer it, only to have Gabriel beat him to it. “If you’re trying to take over, Deano, what’s one of the first things you’d do?”

Dean didn’t hesitate to answer. “Remove the biggest threats. The ones with the most power. You get them out of the way, you can do the rest with less worry.”

“Exactly. And Sam here, he was our biggest threat. He still is, really. He’s the one angel who was entrusted with more of our secrets than any other. He knows things that no one else except for Dad knows. If there’s anyone who could’ve stopped him, it would’ve been Sam.”

“I will stop him.” Sam corrected.

Gabriel looked up at him and locked their gazes for a moment. There was so much that flashed through his amber eyes before the expression in them firmed. Then Gabriel gave a small nod. “We’ll stop him.”

“All of us.” Dean added in.

Looking back and forth between the two, Sam couldn’t keep his smile inside. They would stop him, all of them. They weren’t going to let Raphael get away with this. And they’d do it together. He wasn’t going to have to do this alone anymore. Sam smiled and nodded at them. “Together.”

“Together.” They echoed.

Chapter Text

So many things had happened in a single day for the Winchesters it wasn’t any wonder that they decided to take it easy that night. There was plenty enough to process without adding more on top of it quite yet. Sam wasn’t really ready to talk about anything more anyways. Really, more than anything he just wanted to sit and spend some time with both of his brothers. When he said as much, flushing a little and looking away in shy embarrassment, he wasn’t expecting the disgusted sounding snort that Dean let out.

Hearing it had Sam’s whole body locking down. The only part of him that moved was his eyes. They moved to look at Dean while the rest of Sam was bracing in preparation for trouble.

Beside him, he heard Gabriel let out a low warning growl. “Watch it, Winchester.”

But what came out of Dean’s mouth wasn’t at all what either Sam or Gabriel was expecting. “What? Dude, I saw the way he jumped all over you before. That sure as hell aint the way brothers treat each other.” Then Dean’s expression turned even more disgusted and he lifted a hand to point a warning finger at Sam. “You damn well better not try to start kissing on me. Brother or not, I will shoot you.”

There was a long pause of silence as Sam and Gabriel just stared at Dean in stunned disbelief. Gabriel was the one to break first. He let out a little giggle, followed by a snort, followed by big belly laughs that had even Dean’s lips twitching before he forced his expression into a scowl once more. For his part, Sam flushed bright red and covered his face, shaking his head at Dean. “Oh – Gross, Dean!” Sam dropped his hands away from his face to look at his brother. “It’s not like that, okay! That’s… ew, no!”

“Hey,” Holding his hands out, Dean shrugged, the jackass, looking not the least bit bothered by Sam’s stammering or annoyance. “No judging here, Sammy. Just making sure to lay out a few ground rules.

That only made Gabriel laugh harder. Sam scowled at the archangel and shoved at him, which sent Gabriel falling off the couch that they were sitting on. Gabriel wasn’t the least bit bothered by it and just lay on the floor laughing still. Sam shook his head at him. Then he turned his focus back to Dean. “It’s not like that, Dean. We’re not brothers like you and I are brothers. God didn’t have some wife upstairs who gave birth to all of us. He created us, which means we all share the same Father, but so does the rest of existence. By that standard, Gabe could call you brother if he wanted and it’d be just as true as calling me his brother.”

“So what are you guys, then?” Dean asked. “Like… angel married or something?” He sat back in the chair he was in and the way his fingers moved was a gesture Sam was familiar with, one that said he wished there was a bottle of beer in his hands. To their surprise, one appeared there a second later. A quick look down at the still giggling archangel showed who’d done it.

Sam smiled down at Gabriel, enjoying the look on his face, the joy that was shining in his eyes. “He’s my limlal.” The Enochian word slid easily off of Sam’s tongue. Treasure, he called him. Treasure beyond measure. Because that was what Gabriel had always been to him. The greatest treasure he’d ever known; someone that he would treasure for the rest of his existence.

He watched as the light in Gabriel’s eyes shifted into something warmer. The archangel sat up, though he didn’t leave the ground. He just leaned in and rested his cheek against Sam’s thigh and cuddled up to his leg, perfectly content in his spot there on the ground. Grace brushed against Sam in a silent display of the kind of love that Sam had never found anywhere else, not in all his time in Heaven or his many, many years on earth. Gabriel didn’t have to say a word. His grace said it all for him.

The sound of Dean clearing his throat interrupted them and brought both of their gazes over to the older Winchester. He was watching them with a strange look on his face that Sam didn’t recognize. One that seemed to hold a hint of sadness to it despite the small smile that touched his lips. “Yeah, let’s just pretend I know what that word means. We’ll just leave it at ‘angel-married’.”

“We’re not.” Gabriel supplied, sounding amused and pleased both. “But, we will be. One day.”

Sam couldn’t help the heat that filled him at that low promise. He and Gabriel had always been close in Heaven. They’d been mostly brothers first, then friends, and then something more. The older archangel had started the angelic version of courtship just months before Sam’s fateful Fall. To hear Gabriel speak so easily about where they were heading, to say it like it was just a foregone conclusion, eased some of the fears that Sam hadn’t quite been able to admit to yet. Fears that Gabriel was going to be too angry with him over all this.

That happy feeling stayed with Sam for the rest of the evening as the trio sat and talked together. Sam didn’t notice it as his body started to relax more and more or as he began to drift towards sleep.

Dean was watching as Sam finally lost his fight against sleep. He sat there and watched his little brother’s face, listening as Sam started to make those soft little huffs, the almost-snores that had been part of the soundtrack of Dean’s life for a long, long time. It was a sound of a content and sleeping Sam. One who was peaceful and who wasn’t having any nightmares. It was a sound that meant Sam was alive and safe, something that Dean appreciated more than ever after his brief stint in Hell.

He might not have been there long, but he’d been there long enough. Days had blended together until Dean wasn’t quite sure when one had ended and the next began. It wasn’t like there was a sunrise and sunset to mark the passing of the day in Hell. But he’d been there long enough that he knew the memories weren’t going to fade easily or quickly. This, however – looking at his brother, seeing the peace on Sam’s face, seeing him alive and happy and breathing – this was exactly what he needed right now.

When both brothers were asleep, Gabriel snapped his fingers and brought the both of them to a different bedroom than the one before, this one with a much larger bed. Sam almost immediately rolled over towards Dean without ever even waking up. Gabriel watched, perching himself in the big chair he’d snapped up beside the bed, as Dean grumbled and sort of woke up, though not quite. He grumbled and lifted an arm to get it around Sam and pull him close in a gesture that spoke of plenty of practice. It was probably something they’d done a lot of times as two small boys in a motel room with only two beds and three people. Those gestures hadn’t been lost even though it’d probably been a long time since they’d indulged in them.

Gabriel sat in his chair and silently watched the two for the rest of the night. All the while, his brain was whirring, trying to figure out what to do next.


He wasn’t the only one who spent the night thinking. Despite the fact that Sam spent most of the night asleep, his brain seemed to have been working the entire time. When he woke up he felt like things were quite a bit clearer and a bit steadier than they had been when he’d gone to sleep. There’d been so much new information yesterday he’d almost felt like he was drowning in it at some points. But now he’d had time to relax and all those thoughts – lifetimes of thoughts – had settled down into place. His brain felt more organized.

It left room for plenty of thinking while he was grabbing his morning shower. One thought became clear above all others and he didn’t hesitate to share it with Gabriel and Dean when he came out to join them in the kitchen. “I think we need to find my grace.”

Dean paused in the act of pouring a cup of coffee and turned to look over at Sam. His eyebrows were up in surprise. "What?"

“I think we need to find my grace.” Sam repeated. He slipped down into the chair at the island, right beside Gabriel, and the two shared a brief smile and a touch of hands as Sam got settled. Then the young hunter looked back up at his brother. “I always knew I’d have to find it, but I wasn’t entirely sure when. I couldn’t see that far ahead when I was making my plans. But, I was thinking while I was in the shower and I think it’d be smart to go get it now.”

“Don’t you think it might be better to just, I don’t know, leave it alone right now?” Dean asked. He poured more coffee into his mug and looked like he was fully focused on that, but Sam could see the sliver of green flashing up, telling him that Dean was sneaking looks at him. “I mean, I’m not saying not ever, Sammy. I was just saying ‘not now’. You get your grace back, won’t that just send up a great big ‘here I am’ beacon for all the douchebags upstairs to see?”

“He’s got a point.” Gabriel said slowly.

Sam turned to look at him with surprise. His eyes went back and forth between Dean and Gabriel for a moment. Did they seriously want him to not get his grace back? There was a logical part of Sam that knew that they were being smart here. They were thinking tactically. But, tactics didn’t matter as much to Sam, not with this weird feeling inside of him where his grace should be. Now that he knew what the ache was, an ache he’d felt his whole life – and lifetimes in the past – he wanted nothing more than to fill it. He wanted his grace back with him.

A coffee cup was set down in front of Sam. Jolted out of his thoughts, he looked up to find Dean standing there staring down at him. The way Dean was looking at him reminded Sam of being a kid and not wanting to talk about what was wrong. Dean would always stare at him and somehow, someway, he’d just figure out what was wrong, or figure out how to make Sam talk. This seemed no different.

The hunter stared down at Sam for a long beat. Then he sighed and some of the harsh lines on his face melted away. “It’s that important?”

Sam didn’t say anything. He just looked up at Dean and nodded.

Dean nodded back at him. “All right.” There was something in his eyes, a look that Sam had seen there once before – back when Sam had told them he was going to Stanford. Only this time, there wasn’t anger, just an acceptance that was so much harder to see.

“This isn’t going to change things.” Sam said softly. “You’re still my brother, no matter what. This isn’t going to change that.” He ignored Gabriel, who was being far quieter than Dean was probably used to. He’d always been good at blending into the background if he really had to, though. Dealing with fighting big brothers had taught him that skill early on.

True to form, Dean didn’t take the moment that Sam was offering here. He scoffed and rolled his eyes like Sam was being annoying. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Still, there was something in his eyes, a warm light that told Sam that his reassurance meant more than Dean was willing to admit to out loud. That was fine. They hadn’t always needed words anyways. Not between them.

Grabbing his own mug, Dean turned away from them both. “I’m gonna go grab my shower.” Then, without waiting for them to respond, he hurried out in what they all knew was a retreat.

Gabriel’s hand on Sam’s arm kept him from going after him. “Give him some space.” The archangel advised. “This is all a lot to take in. Add in the hellfire creeping up in his brain and he’s just a bit on edge. He’ll come around, kiddo.”

A sigh slid from Sam and he slumped down in his seat. With one hand he reached up to rub at the bridge of his nose and over his eyebrows in hopes of combating a headache he knew was from his own thoughts and nothing more. This whole thing was one giant, steaming, messy pile of crap, and it wasn’t going to get any better anytime soon. His companions thought it was bad now? They had no idea the types of things that could be heading their way.

Warmth settled on the back of Sam’s neck. Gabriel gave a light squeeze before he started to massage at the tense muscles there.  “What’s wrong, little spider? Your little webs getting all tangled up?”

Sam couldn’t quite contain his snort of laughter. He slanted a look at Gabriel and smiled ever so slightly. “As always, you’ve got a way with words, Gabe.”

“You love it.”

Sighing, Sam dropped his head back down, letting Gabriel rub away some of the tension. It took him a few minutes before he finally decided to speak. Even then, it was just a soft “I’m worried.”

The hand rubbing his neck never stopped. But he felt it as Gabriel pressed in a bit closer to his side. “About what?”

“Everything.” Sam pressed a thumb and forefinger over his eyes. “Everything… everything’s murky right now. It feels like it’s all in flux. This… this is as far as I’ve ever been able to see, an even then I couldn’t see everything. I don’t know what the right path is here. No matter where I go it, I just.” Sam huffed out a breath. “Someone’s gonna get hurt.”

“Knowing you, you’ll do your damndest to make sure that the one who gets hurt is you.” Gabriel didn’t exactly sound happy about that. He wasn’t wrong, though. At the sheepish look that Sam turned his way, the archangel snorted. “That’s what I thought. So, getting you back your grace is the first good step towards keeping your ass safe. I’d like to know you at least have the ability to defend yourself if you need to.”

“It might not be easy to find. I Fell a long time ago, Gabe.”

“Then we better get to work, huh?”

Chapter Text

‘Not easy to find’ was quickly proving an understatement. To help them figure out where to even begin to look, they had to first be able to pinpoint roundabout when Sam actually Fell. That wasn’t as easy as they hoped.

“You don’t remember when you Fell?” Dean asked him. He’d come out from his shower dressed in the clean clothes from his bag that Gabriel had snapped here. Once more they were all set up in the living room, with Dean seated in what he’d obviously claimed as his favorite chair, Gabriel lying on the couch, and Sam on the floor in a place that put him close to them both while still allowing him to sit with his laptop on the coffee table in front of him.

Sam shot his brother a low level glare. “I just got all these memories back yesterday, Dean. Forgive me if I’m having a hard time sorting them out. I lived a lot of human lifetimes.”

“Were you this whiny in every one of them?”

“Bite me.”

Wrinkling his nose, Dean shot him a disgusted look. “We already talked about this, dude. Ew. You got your other ‘brother’ for that.”

That drew a pleased laugh from Gabriel, who seemed to be enjoying their banter almost as much as he was enjoying simply sitting at Sam’s side. Sam was torn between being pleased at how relaxed his brother seemed and how insanely well he was taking this – at least on the outside – or being annoyed at the fact that these two bonding and getting along somehow translated to picking on Sam.

Most likely picking up on Sam’s mood, Gabriel stretched himself out so he was laying out a little more fully on the couch, and so that he had easier access to Sam’s head. His fingers threaded through Sam’s hair and started to car through it gently, the touch extremely soothing. “Try looking up some natural wonders, Razzy. You’ll find something that clicks with you.”

The nickname made Sam roll his eyes, though he smiled fondly. He missed the tiny wince that Dean gave at it, though.

“There’re a lot of natural wonders in the world, Bree.” Sam said, adding a nickname of his own, one that no one else had ever used. “How are we supposed to check them all?”

Gabriel didn’t get a chance to answer before Dean asked “Why’re you looking at natural wonders?”

“The power of grace in its most pure form isn’t destruction. It’s creation.” Gabriel explained. He twisted his fingers through Sam’s hair, tugging lightly to detangle a knot. “We’re not looking for like, the crash site of a meteor or anything like that. That’d be easy. We’re looking for a place of pure creation. Somewhere near where Raz landed that shows signs of being nurtured by grace.”

“Which, seeing as how much the world has changed, could be just about anywhere.” Sam pointed out. He sighed and rubbed at his forehead. “Even if I could figure out which was my first human lifetime, there’d be no guaranteeing that I could pinpoint where it is on a map today. Too many things have changed around since the last time I was an angel. I don’t know the world like I used to.” And that bothered him a whole lot more than he was willing to admit. Once, he would’ve known every part of this earth. He’d watched and learned and enjoyed it as it grew. Now everything was going to be so damn different.

The hand in Sam’s hair gave a little tug meant to grab his attention. When Sam tilted his head up, he found Gabriel smiling reassuringly at him. “We’ll figure it out. There are a few places I’ve been in my time on earth, kiddo. I can help narrow down the list some. Hell,” A flash of humor lit Gabriel’s face and his eyes flashed with it. “I can tell you for sure your grace isn’t anywhere in Scandinavia.”

Sam scoffed even as he smiled ever so slightly. He’d never been able to quite resist Gabriel’s infectious good humor. “Gee, thanks, Gabe. That really narrows it down.”

“Quit whining.” Dean said, rolling his eyes at Sam and kicking a leg out, which Sam ducked away from just in time. There was a hint of a smirk touching Dean’s lips as he looked down at his little brother. “You’re not gonna find anything if you just sit here on your ass and bitch about it. Grab that laptop and start looking.”

Sam shot his brother a glare. “Easy for you to say. You’re not the one actually doing anything.” Still, Sam found himself pulling the laptop forward and starting his search. Jerk or not, Dean was right. Nothing was going to get done if Sam just sat there and whined. He was only going to find something if he actually bothered to look. Only – how on earth was he going to search for something like this?

Typing in ‘natural wonders’ gave him a basic starting point. There were quite a few things that Sam was able to look at on the lists that popped up that he could quickly discount. Things that he knew weren’t his – they didn’t feel like him, even just looking at pictures – or things that he knew were caused by something else.

While Sam searched, Dean seemed to have decided that it was the perfect time for him to quiz Gabriel on angels. Sam ignored it mostly because he knew that this was Dean’s way of trying to get comfortable with this and understand. The more he understood, the more comfortable he was, the less chance that he’d really freak out on Sam for all of this. This was Dean making an effort to come to terms with things and loved him even more for it.

“So,” Dean drawled out, shifting on his seat to better be able to watch them both. “Angels are made up of this thing, this grace, but you don’t have any actual bodies?”

“Not in the sense you’d understand.” Gabriel said agreeably. He kept carding his fingers through Sam’s hair, a soothing touch for them both. “We have True Forms up there that we all perceive each other as. But only a select few humans are capable of even a peek of that without having their eyeballs melted out of their heads. That’s why we grab vessels when we come to earth. Your brother here, though,” Without even having to look, Sam knew that Gabriel was leering at him now. “He always was a gorgeous one. Big, beautiful wings – second biggest set up there. An a tail even longer than Lucifer’s…”

“A tail?”

Sam looked up to find Dean watching them with narrowed eyes, like he was trying to figure out if they were screwing with him. Sam sighed and paused in his typing long enough to explain. “All angels have wings, but only some have tails. It’s just… another manifestation of our grace. Humans were created in Dad’s image, but animals were created in our image, in a sense. Pieces of us, at least. Some of the stuff you think of as animal traits are really things that angels had first. So yes, some angels have tails – and yes, I did.” And if he’d had it right then, he would’ve used it to snap at Gabriel like he’d done many times in the past when the other archangel irritated him. Judging by the grin that Gabriel sent his way, the little shit knew that. Sam huffed, rolling his eyes, and then turned back to the computer. “I’m not finding anything that seems to suit what we’re looking for. If you two want to chime in at any time, it’d be helpful.”

“You try looking for like, I don’t know, mysterious nature shit or something like that?” Dean asked him.

The idea had Sam looking up at his brother with surprise written clear on his face.

Seeing it, Dean snorted. “What? You guys said you’re the archangel of mysteries, right? An this is your grace that touched ground. Makes sense it’d reflect you, wouldn’t it?”

“You know, Deano. You’re not as dumb as you look.” Gabriel said with mock-wonder in his voice. It earned him a glare and a flying beer bottle that vanished halfway to him.

Sam, for his part, was too busy typing in the computer to really pay either of them any attention. Dean’s idea was a good one. Finding a someplace that was both ‘mysterious’ and natural was a really good way to narrow things down. There couldn’t be too many places on earth that fit the criteria, right? A quick search in Google actually brought up a list of places that had Sam sitting forward a little and watching his screen a bit more intently. All of the places on this list – “Nature's Mysterious Wonders” – had the potential to be where his grace had landed.

The next hour was spent running down the list of twenty places one by one. Some of them, Sam and Gabriel could rule out, either because they didn't feel right or because Gabriel had already been there in his time on earth and he knew Sam's grace wasn't there. But others had to be physically checked out. Now, Sam could've gone to any of those places with Gabriel and told him in a flash whether or not the place was actually where his grace was or not. But not all the places were easily accessible for humans, nor was it entirely safe for Sam to step foot outside of the wards around Gabriel's property right now. After everything that the trio had done since Gabriel first set off into Hell after Dean, there was a good chance that angels all over would be keeping an eye out for them. Stepping foot off Gabriel's property would be the same as holding up a sign saying “Here I am, come take me!”

So when needed, Gabriel flew away to these places on his own, checking to see if he could sense grace anywhere at all. If there was any angel who would recognize Sam's missing grace, it'd be Gabriel.

Sometimes Gabriel was there and back again in just seconds. Sometimes, the places seemed to take him a second to search.

It was during one of those longer moments that Sam hesitantly looked up at his big brother and voiced some of the questions that were sitting in his mind. “Hey, Dean?”

Dean didn't even look up from the computer screen where he was reading through the next potential place. “Yeah?”

“Are you... I mean, are we okay? You and I?”

That was enough to have Dean's attention snapping up to him. The hunter looked up from the computer screen and his eyes sought out Sam's face. There was something in his gaze, something worried and scared and so many other things that Sam couldn’t quite name, yet it was all quickly hidden down underneath the masks that Dean had learned to put up a long time ago. A corner of his mouth quirked up and a small smile took the place of the worry on his face, even if it didn't replace it completely. “We're fine, Sammy.”

They weren't perfect – the both of them knew it. But the simple words told Sam that they'd be okay, eventually.

Nodding, he ducked his head down, hiding his own smile.


They were getting close to the end of the list when one place on there jumped out and caught his eye. For a second he just sat there and stared at the words and pictures in front of him. It was... it was perfect. There was something inside of Sam that just sort of clicked as he looked at the photos. Something that felt right.

“Sammy?”

Dean's voice startled Sam into looking up. When he did, there was a smile on his lips. “The Belize Barrier Reef.”

Dean furrowed his eyebrows at him and gave him a look of confusion. “What?”

“The Belize Barrier Reef.” Sam repeated. “I think... I think that might be where to look.”

Dean still looked confused, but Gabriel’s face had lit up slightly and he seemed to be thinking about it. His lips curved up into a smirk and then he was chuckling, shaking his head. “You’re thinking the Great Blue Hole aren’t you?”

Flushing a little, Sam shrugged. “It fits.”

“Oh, no, I agree completely. I just find it hilarious.” Seeing that Dean still looked confused, Gabriel turned enough that he was smirking over at Dean, perfectly happy to have someone to help him tease Sam here just like the giant jerks they both were. “The Great Blue Hole is this submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It’s this massive looking hole that’s over 984 feet across and 354 feet deep. It’s basically like this giant crater where his grace could’ve landed, with a gorgeous reef that grew up around it. It’s sort of baffled humans ever since they first found it. They don’t really understand how it got there or what made it, an they love to explore it and try and find all its secrets.”

“Sounds about right.” Dean remarked, his own smirk touching his lips now.

Rolling his eyes, Sam tried to ignore their comments while also hoping to cut them off before they could get going. To that effect he reached out and smacked a hand against Gabriel’s leg. “Go and check it out, why don’t you?”

“Yeah.” Dean called out, his grin growing. As much as he liked picking on Sam, it was apparent he enjoyed needling Gabriel even more. “Go on, puppy. Fetch.”

The force of Gabriel's exit flight was enough to send Dean and his chair both back a few inches. Sam couldn't help but laugh at the way Dean jumped and gripped at the armrests. As soon as Dean realized what had happened, and that he was safe, he shot a glare at Sam. “Shut up.”

Sam laughed and held his hands up in a gesture of peace on either side of his head.

There was a warm feeling building inside of Sam. It was the same part of him that had lit up when he'd looked at those pictures. This wasn't going to be another fruitless trip. This – this was it. This was where his grace would be. Gabriel would find it there. And Sam – Sam would be whole again. He'd be himself once more. The thought was amazing - and terrifying.

Getting his grace back meant that there was going to be no more time for hiding. Dean had been right before. Taking his grace back into him would send up a beacon that would let everyone know that he was back. There'd be no hiding it. Raziel was an archangel and his grace would light up the sky, the power of it echoing through Heaven and the Host in an announcement of his return. Everyone would know that he'd come home.

Was he ready for that?

Sam didn't even realize that he'd gotten to his feet until he found himself standing in the kitchen. Caught up in his thoughts, he'd pushed himself up and away, walking away from Dean and from everything else. Behind him, he heard his brother's voice, a questioning “Sammy? You okay?” that he couldn't bring himself to answer.

As soon as he got his grace back, things were going to go insane. Angels were probably already hunting Sam and Dean Winchester at the moment. It'd be nothing compared to how hard they'd hunt Raziel. His return was going to be huge in Heaven.

They would hunt him.

That had Sam bowing down his head and blowing out a shaky breath. His family was going to hunt him. That... it hadn't sunk in before. He hadn't really let it sink in. But they were going to hunt him. There was no way Raphael hadn't managed to turn Raziel's abandonment into something that would damn him in the eyes of the Host. By Falling, Raziel had ruined Raphael's plans to kill him. It was too much to hope that Raphael hadn't had a backup plan. Something to make the younger archangel look guilty.

What kind of crimes had they painted him with? What things had they claimed he'd done?

Sam pressed a hand against his stomach and tried to still the nausea that was churning there.

A hand settled on his shoulder. “Sammy, what's going on? What is it?”

Sam turned his head just enough to look up at Dean. Dean, his big brother, a brother who had taken care of him his whole life. Who was still standing here with him even in the midst of all this chaos. Sam looked at him and leaned into his touch. He opened his mouth to say something – what, he wasn't quite sure – when suddenly an all too familiar pain pressed at his temples and behind his eyes.

Sam only had a second to wonder why this was happening now, when it hadn't happened since before Azazel's death, before he was sucked down through the pain and into the vision that was screaming inside his mind.

The vision didn’t last long. Sam came back to himself just moments after it started. He found his body slumped into Dean’s arms, his brother holding him up just as he’d done plenty of times in the past. For one brief moment Sam let himself rest there in one of the few places that he’d ever felt safe. He let himself draw in the safety and love that he’d always felt in Dean’s presence. Words had never been big for them – actions were the way they communicated. All the words that Dean never said had always been conveyed in these quiet touches. Sam soaked it in and then carefully drew himself away.

What came next happened so fast there was no way for Dean to even stop it. Sam didn’t telegraph his move or give Dean any indicator it was coming. Even as the younger Winchester straightened himself up, he was letting his fist fly, the force of the blow sending Dean crashing into the counter nearby and knocking him out cold.

Sam stared down at his brother’s body on the ground and had to fight to swallow the lump in his throat. “I’m sorry, Dean.” He whispered, even though he knew Dean couldn’t hear him. “I won’t let them hurt you.”

Turning on his heel, Sam hurried away, heading straight for the front door. He needed to get out of here. He needed to get off the property – and out of the wards – before it was too late. When they came for him, he needed to be as far away from here as possible.

Sam ran, fueled by fear and panic and the need to keep safe those that he loved. He ran and ran, long legs eating up the ground, taking him further away from the safety of Gabriel’s home. Further away from his family. Sam didn’t let himself think about it and he didn’t let himself look back. He just ran.

When something slammed into him, Sam was prepared for it, just barely managing to hold in his shout as he was knocked down to the forest floor, his body pinned down by a force he couldn’t see. It flattened him down to the ground and held him in place so that there was no chance of him moving. Not even when the sound of footsteps crunched through the leaves. Sam could only lay there and watch as a pair of shoes came into view and stopped right in front of him. The young hunter watched as the shoes shifted and then there was a pair of legs moving, coming down into a squat right beside him.

The pressure lifted just enough that Sam was able to tilt his head and look up into the dark face that was smirking down at him. “Hello – brother.”

Sam stared up at the very last being that he wanted to see and had to fight to keep a neutral face. “Raphael.”

“I’ve been looking for you for a long, long time.” Raphael said. He lifted one hand and Sam would’ve flinched if he’d been able to move. The hand settled on Sam’s shoulder and the way that Raphael grinned at him sent an icy chill down Sam’s spine. “Come on, little brother. Let’s go… chat.”

Chapter Text

Something was wrong.

Gabriel knew it even before he fully landed in his home. Because of that, he landed with wings out and blade in hand, fully prepared to fight against anything that might be here waiting for him. However, what he found wasn’t an attack waiting to happen, but the remnants of one already gone down. Dean was lying unconscious and bleeding on the kitchen floor and Sam was nowhere in sight. There wasn’t a trace of him anywhere on the property for Gabriel to feel. He was just, gone. Fear hit Gabriel like a fist to the gut. He rushed forward, not even bothering to walk. He simply appeared at Dean’s side and reached out to touch his head. In a flash the hunter’s injuries were healed and he was blinking his eyes and groaning as he slowly came back to consciousness.

The fear that Gabriel felt didn’t really leave much room for compassion. Maybe at a different time he would’ve been more kind and patient; he might’ve waited for Dean to wake up a little more before bombarding him. Right in that moment, all Gabriel could think was that Sam wasn’t here, he was gone, and Dean was hurt, and those two things didn’t equal up to something good. “Dean – where’s Sam?” The sharpness of Gabriel’s question echoed through the room like the crack of a whip.

Dean groaned and rubbed at his head. Fighting to push himself up, he furrowed his brows. “Sam?” Abruptly his expression shifted into something that managed to be worried and pissed off. “Sam. That little shit. He freakin’ clocked me!”

Sam had hit him? That had Gabriel’s eyebrows going up in surprise. Sam had done this? “What happened?”

Sitting up, Dean wiped away the bit of blood that was on his face and glared at Gabriel like somehow this whole thing was his fault. “He was freaking out and I came over to talk to him when he got hit with one of his freaky visions. I didn’t even know he still got visions. I thought those stopped after the yellow eyed demon was killed.”

“Raziel always had visions. It’s just a part of who he is. It’s his grace, not the demon blood.” Gabriel said, mind spinning with this new little fact. Sam had had a vision? That opened up a world of possibilities for what could be going on. He could’ve seen anything. “That’s not important, though. What happened next?”

Dean grabbed hold of the counter and yanked himself up, eyes already scanning the room even as he continued to speak. “Nothing, man. He had his little vision an the next thing I know, the little bastard clocked me one.”

So the minute that Sam had recovered from his vision, he’d hit his brother? Gabriel stayed frozen in place as he added in that little fact to the rest and began piecing it together into a picture that only served to make his vessel feel even more sick. The fact that Sam had knocked his brother out after having a vision wasn’t a good sign – not at all. What had Sam seen? What had his vision showed him that scared him so badly he’d knocked his brother out and run away?

Only one thing would’ve sent him running away like that. The only thing that could’ve made Sam run from them right at the moment was if he was trying to protect them. That had to mean that something was coming. Someone was coming for Sam. Only, they won’t come here. He wouldn’t let them. That’s why he ran – to draw them out and away from here. To keep us safe. Just thinking it made Gabriel want to scream. It was exactly what Sam would’ve done, too. Run out straight into danger just to make sure that those he loved were kept safe. “You little idiot.”

“What?”

Abruptly reminded of Dean’s presence, Gabriel pushed himself up straight once more. He met the hunter’s eyes could see the barely leashed fear hidden underneath the temper in Dean’s eyes. Whatever was in his own gaze must’ve been intense because it made Dean take a step back. In that moment, Gabriel didn’t care. He didn’t care about anything but Sam. “What’s the one thing guaranteed to make Sam run, Deano? What do you think he saw in that vision of his that had him knocking you out and running?”

It only took a second for Dean’s brain to catch up with Gabriel’s. His eyes went wide with realization. “Something’s coming for us.”

Was.” Gabriel corrected. “Something was coming for us. Sam’s not on my property anymore – he’s outside the wards.”

“That little shit. He handed himself over to them.”

“Bingo!”

There was no doubt in Gabriel’s mind about who it was that was coming after them. After Sam. The only creatures out there that would want anything to do with him were angels or demons. Demons might come after him, but they wouldn’t have been able to break Gabriel’s wards, and they wouldn’t have been a threat to Gabriel. That meant that what was coming after them, what probably had Sam right this very minute, was angels. And that was beyond terrifying. Because any angel that looked at Sam right now would be able to see the grace inside of him. The demon blood had helped to keep things muddied and make it hard to see just who he was. With that gone, his grace-soul was clear for any angel to see. One look and they’d know exactly who he was. After that, it’d be no time at all before Raphael had him. That idea was more terrifying than anything else.

Dean took a step towards forward and grabbed hold of Gabriel’s arm. Fear for his brother won out over common sense. “You’ve got to do something. Find him somehow. If they can sense him, can’t you?”

“No.” Gabriel snapped. He couldn’t sense Sam anywhere. That meant that either they already had him and were shielding him, or… no, Gabriel refused to think that. He refused to believe it.

They would find Sam. They would. And they would bring him home.

Somehow.


Sam woke up already in pain. Sadly, it was a sensation he was familiar with, and one that put him immediately on edge. The fact that he couldn’t sense any bindings didn’t set him at ease. He wasn't the least bit foggy on what was going on or who had him. His memories were painfully clear on that matter. They reminded him quite loudly about how he'd gotten into this position and how he'd come to be in pain.

When Raphael had flown Sam away from that forest, he'd taken him somewhere that Sam hadn't really had the time to fully look around and appreciate. One moment they'd been landing and the next Sam had found himself surrounded by demons. Demons who, after a lazy “Don't kill him” from Raphael, had had quite a bit of fun playing around with the hunter. When unconsciousness came, Sam had reached for it gladly.

Unfortunately, he was back in the real world now, back in this body that hurt so damn bad – and back with his brother.

As if to attest to that, a hand fisted in his hair and yanked his head up. Sam had to fight not to whimper as his head was jerked back. The sunlight behind Raphael's head put him mostly in the shadows, making it so that Sam couldn't even see the expression on his face. Not that he'd need to. He knew what he'd find there. He knew the look that would be directed his way.

“I was wondering how long it would take you to wake.” Raphael said. In contrast to the grip in Sam's hair, and the way Sam's body ached, the tone to Raphael’s words was almost – kind. It was that smooth, conversational tone that some of Sam's professors in college had used when they were talking about a subject they'd taught for years and years yet still sometimes found just a bit curious. “The human body, it's so – fragile. What our Father was thinking when He made these I will never begin to understand.”

The hand in Sam's hair let go and his head dropped down to the hard ground. He didn't get long to lay there and rest. Just seconds after he hit, he was being flipped over onto his back by something that he couldn't see, his body pinned down with what he knew had to be his brother's grace. Just thinking of it, of what he'd seen the last time he had seen Raphael back at the end, the damage that had been done to that grace and the things it’d been capable of, was enough to make Sam shudder.

Raphael stayed in a squat right by Sam's head. With the shift in position, Sam was able to see his face a little better. To make out the cool eyes and the little half sneer there. While this vessel wasn’t one that Sam recognized, he knew the feel of the grace inside. Could recognize a hint of it in those dark eyes. However, in that moment Sam was forcefully reminded of just how little human eyes could see, and how little he could do. He was truly at Raphael’s mercy here. And Sam knew better than many out there just how little mercy this archangel had.

“You've caused quite a lot of trouble for me over the years, Raziel. Not just back then, but recently, too.”

“Glad to be of service.” Sam managed to say. The false bravado in his voice was something he knew Raphael would see right through, yet he couldn't stop it. Dean had taught him well. No matter what was going on or who you were up against, never let them see you afraid. Don't give them that victory.

Raphael made a low humming sound and shook his head. “Being born into Lucifer's vessel, that was a tricky one. I'd love to know how it was you managed it.”

“Just that lucky, I guess.”

The grace over Sam tightened, pressing in against every bruise, and he hissed sharply. “I’d watch how you speak to me. You’d do well to show me some respect.” The grace tightened even more and Sam gasped while his vision went just a little blurry. Above him, he heard Raphael’s furious snarl. “Your little guardian isn’t here to protect you this time.” Abruptly the grace loosened and Sam slumped back down to the ground, sucking in breaths as he desperately tried to still his racing heart. He felt a palm cup his face and looked up through hazy eyes to find that Raphael had leaned in closer. “This will go much easier for you if you cooperate, Raziel.”

What ‘this’ was, Sam had no doubts of. He knew that he wasn’t being kept alive here out of the goodness of Raphael’s heart. The archangel had questions for him – questions he would insist on having answered. He knew that there was no one with more knowledge than Sam. Apparently, with Sam no longer having his grace, Raphael had decided that questioning him was a much better option than killing him.

Looking up at him, Sam knew the only thing he could say here. The only thing he could do. He made his voice as steady as possible as he said “I’ll tell you nothing.”

“We’ll see about that.”

The grace around Sam shifted, sliding from around him to inside him, and the air around them began to fill with the sound of Sam’s screams.


Ignoring the questions that were sent his way was surprisingly easy. Sam had sworn a long time ago to keep the secrets that he had and not even torture was going to draw that out of him. That didn't make the pain any easier to bear. In his human lives, Sam had endured quite a bit. He'd been through pain and heartache, war, torture, death both natural and violent – none of it compared to the pain of feeling the grace of his brother ripping him apart from the inside out. This was pain on a level that couldn't even begin to be described. Not just the actual pain itself, but the mental pain that came from knowing that this was his brother, one of his big brothers – someone who was supposed to help look out for him and care for him.

Sam knew now what big brothers should be like. They weren't supposed to hurt you like this. Not this bad. They were the ones that protected you from this kind of pain and kicked the ass of anyone dumb enough to cause it. They laughed at you when you messed up and then beat up anyone who dared think that they could do the same. They protected you.

Gabriel – he was a good brother, but to Sam he was so much more. Michael had been a good big brother once, back before Lucifer's rebellion. Lucifer had even been in some ways. Dean was like that. Dean was everything a brother should be. While he might hurt Sam, he never hurt him. Not like this.

As the grace drained him from, finally pulling back, Sam let his body slump down to the ground in relief.

As if to mock the thoughts that Sam was having, a gentle hand smoothed some of his hair back from his sweat slicked face. Sam blinked open heavy eyes and tried to focus on the blurry face in front of him. He felt Raphael’s hand pause at his forehead, keeping his bangs away from his face. “I take no pleasure in this, Raziel.”

Who was he kidding? “B-Bite me.” Sam stammered out. He coughed, bringing a hint of a metallic taste to his mouth. Blood. The grace wasn’t just making him think he was hurt – it was actually hurting him. “You c-can lie to everyone els-se, but not t-t-to me.” Turning his head away from Raphael’s hand, Sam spat the blood in his mouth down onto the floor.

“All you have to do is answer my questions and the pain will stop, Raziel. Just tell me how to fix the mess that you’ve created.”

“I c-created?” A broken, painful laugh tore from Sam’s chest. “I didn’t make this mess, R-Raph. Y-You did. I’m j-just trying to s-s-stop it.”

The grace inside of Sam blazed white hot and he screamed yet again as it suddenly felt like he was being pummeled all over with fists.

When the pain stopped again and Sam was once more slumped down to the ground, Raphael was still there, still with his calm questions. “How do we free Lucifer without breaking the seals?”

“G-Go to Hell...” Sam spat out, wheezing. “…and f-figure it out yours-self.”

This time he was expecting it as the pain returned.

Chapter Text

Another lull brought a small moment of peace. Sam didn’t know if he could get up or even begin to move. His whole body was aching and the grace that was acting as a soul was screaming from the pain and violation. The things that Raphael had done – and then healed so that he could do them all over again – were atrocious. Crimes for which Raphael could earn his own banishment from Heaven.

Standing above him, the archangel who had once been such a healer was now watching him with a malicious smile, not in the least bit bothered by the amount of blood spread around the room. “I hope you’re not hinging all your hope on Gabriel.” Raphael sounded amused at the idea. There was a sneer in his voice that immediately put Sam’s hackles up. Sensing it, the archangel smirked. “Still so protective of him, I see. Well, I hate to break it to you, little brother, but he won’t be staging any sort of rescue for you. Not only can he not sense where you are, thanks to my sigils…” A wave of the hand gestured lazily towards the wall where there were indeed sigils painted, ones that Sam immediately recognized. “…he stands almost no chance in finding your grace for you.”

“You always did underestimate him.” Sam spat out.

Raphael’s grin grew. “And you always did underestimate me.” Reaching up, he hooked his free hand underneath his shirt and pulled something free. When Sam saw what it was, he froze, barely even breathing. That – that was a grace bottle.

The horror on Sam’s face caused Raphael to laugh. The sound was cold and empty, sending a chill down Sam’s spine.

“Did you really think I wouldn't find it? That I wouldn't take it?”

“I'd hoped you weren't that far gone.” Sam said. Somehow, he kept the wheezing stutter out of his voice. His eyes stayed locked on that little bottle as Raphael once more tucked it underneath his shirt. That was Sam's grace in there. That was the rest of him, right there, right in that little bottle, and it was just there underneath Raphael's shirt. If Sam could get close enough, if he could just grab it, then he'd have it back and Raphael wouldn't stand a chance. There'd be no way that he could stop Sam. He was older, yes, and maybe stronger in some ways, but Sam was smarter. He knew the tricks that the others didn't and he would shamelessly use every single one of them if it got him out of here.

Tricks...

Something in the back of Sam's mind sparked at that word. He didn't even notice as Raphael laughed above him, or as he said something else. All Sam could focus on was that word and the thoughts that it led him towards.

As one of the archangels who knew the most secrets, there were plenty of things Sam knew, plenty of things he could do. Granted, he didn't have his grace back, but that didn't mean that all those tricks were unavailable for him. There were some that could be done while human. At least, with the backing of the slight amount of grace he did have in him. There was one trick that he might be able to pull off – one that he had done once before, with a little help from Andy.

The air in Sam's lungs vanished as something closed around his throat and yanked him upright. He was pulled up off the ground until he was dangling in the air by the hold on his throat. Eyes wide, he tried to lift his aching arms, tried to grab hold of something that he couldn't even see, despite knowing how futile it was.

Raphael stepped up in front of him and the light of his grace flashed bright in his eyes. “I'm growing tired of this, Raziel. You will answer me.”

The grace around Sam's throat loosened only slightly, just enough to keep him from passing out but not enough for him to properly draw in air. Still, he wheezed out the only answer he could give here. One that probably would've made Dean proud. “Screw... you...”

The hold on his neck shifted and Sam went flying. He crashed into the wall hard enough to jar all his aches and rattle his bones before sliding down to slump on the ground.

He knew Raphael was coming towards him – knew that this wasn't over. But in that brief moment Sam reached down inside himself and tried to remember what it had felt like when Andy had done this. The way the light in him shifted... how it grabbed on and reached out...

Sam focused all his energy on it, pushing as hard as he could, not even caring as the dark crept in around the edges of his vision. With everything he had he fought to send the vision he needed to the only one who might be able to help him. Gabriel, please...

A blow to the head jolted Sam out of his thoughts and broke his concentration. He gave another scream as his body was dragged across the floor and lifted, once more being slammed into the wall. He was held there as Raphael stalked towards him. There was fury on his brother's face and Sam knew - he knew his time was running out. Raphael wasn't patient. He wasn't going to continue this.

“Enough games.” Raphael growled out at him, proving Sam's point. He stopped right in front of him and the grace around Sam grew even tighter. “You will tell me what I need to know, Raziel, and you will tell me now, or so help me I will drag this pitiful excuse for a soul straight down into the pit. We'll see how willing you are to talk once you've taken your precious brother's place on the rack. And I assure you, there will be no going back.”

Sam let his lips curve up, though he knew it would only antagonize him. “You really expect me to believe that? You wouldn't risk letting them know the secrets I know. You don't want anyone but yourself to have that kind of power. It's why you've never liked me.” Gathering courage, Sam straightened himself up a little more, arching his chin up ever so slightly in a gesture Dean would've been able to recognize as Sam digging his heels in. It was the face he used to get when fighting with their dad. “You've been jealous of the power I hold ever since I was a fledgling, and you're no better now. You see me as a threat, not as a brother. But you've never really realized just how big a threat I can be.” Sam's smug grin grew. “You think you know, but you've got no idea. And you better pray to our Father that you never find out.”

With every word Sam spoke, Raphael grew just a little harder and a little colder. This time, it wasn't his grace that reached out for Sam - it was his hand. He curled it around Sam's throat and held him there, the threat in that touch easy to feel. “You'll regret that.” Raphael told him.

There was no chance for Sam to respond. Before he could say a word, the thing he'd been waiting for, the thing he'd been praying for, finally came true.

The doors to the little warehouse space they were in came flying open and the one being that Sam wanted to see more than anything came strolling in with a fury that few knew he was capable of.

In a flash, Raphael went flying, and Sam's body was left free to slump down to the ground. He couldn't hold himself up - could only lay there and stare as Gabriel stalked in with a crackle of lightning and a great big boom of thunder. There was water dripping off him, a testament to the torrential rain that had apparently sprung up outside, all of which were a surefire sign of his temper. They were also a sign of the kind of damage that Gabriel was capable of in that moment. Sam knew that Gabriel stood a better chance of fighting Raphael now than he would have before, so long ago, but it didn't mean that he wanted to see his brothers fighting. He didn't want Gabriel to have to hurt someone because of him.

Raphael was managing to do a pretty good job of hiding any of his fear underneath that cold mask of his. His disgust, however, showed clearly in his tone as he said “Hello, Gabriel.”

“Come any closer and I will gut you like a fish.” Gabriel snarled at him. There was no doubt that he meant it, too. The blade that slid down into his hand was testament of that.

“Gabriel...” The low croak of Sam's voice was enough to bring Gabriel's attention to him. Sam tried to push himself up, his body screaming at him, and he saw the fury flash over Gabriel's gaze, a light that was both bright and yet dark, archangel and pagan combined in that moment. He made as if to walk towards Sam, who quickly managed to get a hand up and wave him off. “Don't let him leave. He has my grace, Gabe.”

The storm outside grew louder and Sam could clearly hear the rain falling now.  “He what?”

It wasn’t just the fact that this was Sam that made Gabriel so angry. It was the fact that Raphael had taken grace – any grace. That was considered a crime amongst them. The only way a grace could be taken and contained was with the permission of the angel it belonged to, or by order of Michael or their Father.

The look that briefly crossed Raphael’s face told Sam that Gabriel must’ve done something to prevent the other archangel from leaving. They could do it; even though Gabriel was younger than Raphael, he could still stop him from leaving, especially if he was using his pagan side to help. But all it would take to break that was a fight that would get Gabriel distracted just enough for his powers to waver a little.

The same thought must’ve occurred to Raphael because he made as if to take a step in Gabriel’s direction. Sam couldn’t stop the low growl that spilled past his lips. Bracing his hands on the ground, he pushed himself up to his knees, gritting his teeth against the pain of it. “Don’t!” He called out sharply. All eyes turned to him as he moved one hand to the wall, shakily holding on so that he could rise up on first one foot and then the other. His legs shook and his body felt like it was screaming, but somehow he managed to hold himself up, to not fall back down.

That finally broke Gabriel’s pose and he hurried over to Sam, hands gentle as he reached out to brace him up. Sam accepted the touch gratefully, as well as the healing grace that washed over him. It was enough to heal the physical injuries, though it wasn’t quite enough to heal the damage done to his grace. He ignored Gabriel’s low growl at that and instead focused on standing up straight and staring right at Raphael, his glare even sharper now that it wasn’t clouded by pain. “Harm him and I will end you myself, Raphael. Slowly and painfully. And trust me, I know plenty of ways to make it last, and I don’t have to have my grace for over half of them.”

“You think you could hurt me? You, a tiny little human?” Raphael curled his lip up in a sneer. “You couldn’t even defend yourself, brother.”

Sam’s expression hardened. “You think to test me? I promise you, I’ll make you suffer for every single second of pain you put him through.”

“He’s not alone this time, either.” Gabriel snarled out. Though Sam was healed, Gabriel didn’t move away. He kept one hand on the small of Sam’s back, his other hand still holding his sword at his side. “You’ve gone too damn far, Raph.”

Righteous fury lit Raphael’s eyes. If Sam had been able to see his wings, he was sure they would’ve been up and high, twisting in just a little with the pride that Raphael was feeling. “I’m not the one who betrayed his family and ran away from home.”

That was the final straw for Sam. Something in him snapped. Pushing off the wall, he glared at him. “How dare you?” He demanded, hoarse voice echoing around them. “How dare you accuse me of betrayal? You, who would betray your family at every turn! I know the things you’ve done, Raphael, so don’t you stand there and preach to me about betrayal. I know exactly what you’ve done to bring this apocalypse into existence.” His upper lip curled in a disgusted sneer. “Does Michael? Does he know how far you were willing to go to bring this all about?”

“I make the necessary sacrifices for the good of our family!” Raphael said.

For as much pain and anger as Sam felt, there was sadness as well, a grief that was bigger than anything. It softened his voice to something almost pitying. “There’s something broken in you, Raphael. So broken I don’t think anyone but Dad could fix it.”

Raphael moved forward as if to come towards them, and both Sam and Gabriel braced, preparing themselves for the fight about to come their way. Raphael wasn’t going to just walk away from them. He wasn’t going to just let them walk away, either.

Nor would they want to. Sam wasn't going to walk out of here without his grace. If that meant he had to take down Raphael, so be it. He wasn't alone and helpless this time. He had Gabriel at his side and Gabriel would fight to the bitter end with him, no matter how little Sam wanted it. They weren't going to separate this time. They were in this together, no matter the outcome.

Raphael got only two steps before something one again interrupted them. Only, this time it was the very last thing they could've expected. Three faces looked up in shock at the person who came walking in through the still open doors. Or, more, the angel inside the person.

Even without his angelic vision, there was no mistaking the power that was radiating out from this being in front of him, the waves of grace that not even a vessel could contain.

Michael.

It was Michael – and he was wearing John Winchester.

Chapter Text

Sam's mouth dropped open in shock as he stared at the man walking in. Part of his brain was telling him that it was Michael there - Michael was the one inside of that body. But the other part of him was screaming that this was John. John Winchester – his father. The father who had raised him in this lifetime. The father who he had loved and hated, laughed and fought with. The father who had died to save Dean's life. How – how was he here?

It doesn't take much for an archangel to raise a human. Even one we thought was lost. Sam's memories reminded him.

“Michael,” Raphael breathed his name out like a blessing, but the light in his eyes before they were lowered showed just how much of a curse he truly thought this was.

Beside Sam, Gabriel had gone still and tense. It hit Sam that Gabriel hadn't seen his family in just as long as Sam had. He'd walked away from them after Sam's – Raziel's – Fall. He hadn't been back home.

John's eyes – Michael's eyes – ran over Raphael before moving to Gabriel. A small smile touched his lips then. “Gabriel. It's good to see you alive and well.”

Surprise colored Gabriel's eyes only to be quickly shoved under the mask of the trickster. “Long time no see, Mikey.”

If Gabriel's flippant tone bothered him, it didn't show. Michael just nodded his head. Then he shifted his gaze to Sam. It took everything Sam had not to cow down underneath that look. No matter what else the others said or did, no matter how brave Sam had tried to be when facing against Raphael, it meant nothing in the face of this brother. The one brother who was fully capable of carrying out the sentence on any of the false crimes that were pinned on Sam. This was the brother who could smite him easily, with barely a thought, and they had no way of defending themselves. Even with his grace Sam wouldn't have stood a chance alone. With Gabriel at his side - who knows? But they'd never dared even think that. Never wanted to, either.

Fighting back a shudder, Sam tried to stay strong. He borrowed strength from the hand that still touched his back and hoped that it would be enough to keep his voice steady. “Hey, Michael.”

“Raziel.”

It was all they said. In the moment, it was all they needed to say. There was so much more going on here. Sam could see it on Michael's face - on the face of a father that Sam had learned to read long ago. Michael had been in vessels before and he used them instinctively now; little human gestures leaked through. Gestures that sort of bled over from the vessel itself. Sam recognized the veiled sorrow on his father's features.

“Michael,” Raphael called out, drawing Michael's attention back to him. “What are you doing here?”

One eyebrow arched up as Michael's expression cooled. “Do I need your permission to visit earth now, brother?”

“You haven’t in quite a long time.”

“I’ve never been given need. But,” Michael tilted his head and looked over at Sam, a ghost of a smile touching his lips. “When a brother that has been missing for millennia reaches out with a cry to protect another missing brother, what else am I supposed to do?”

Sam’s eyes went wide with surprise. What did… he quickly turned towards Gabriel, who met his gaze without flinching. “I won’t risk you.” Gabriel said firmly, sliding his hand off of Sam’s back and down until they could slide their fingers together. He held Sam’s hand tightly in his. “The crimes they’re accusing you of earn you imprisonment or banishment, not death, and Raphael would’ve killed you. I took the lesser of two evils.”

The fact that Gabriel had been willing to take the risk – and it wasn't just risk against Sam, it was dangerous for Gabriel as well, all those years playing pagan weren't going to look good for him – all in an effort to keep Sam safe was both amazing and humbling. Sam squeezed his hand back and wished that they were alone so he could kiss him. He wished he had his grace so that he could thread his wings through Gabriel's and curl his tail around him.

When Sam looked back up, he found Michael watching them with a sad light in his eyes. “Neither of you is in any danger from my presence. I've come to bring one brother home, not to arrest another.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” Gabriel snarked.

Sam, however, had something else much more important on his mind. Something that needed to be addressed before Michael went anywhere, or Raphael tried to hurry away and cover his tracks. “I won’t stand in the way of whatever you want to do with Raphael or myself, Michael.” He made no promises if Michael made a move towards Gabriel. “But before you do, Raphael has something of mine. Something he has no right to and that I want back.” When he turned to Raphael, he saw a sort of mute horror in his eyes. Sam felt no pity for him. Not for this. “He’s got my grace, and I want it back.”

“You’re a liar and a traitor.” Raphael hissed out. “You should count yourself lucky we don’t destroy you on the spot.”

His words had Gabriel growling and Sam standing up straighter. “Whatever crimes I’ve committed, that grace is mine and you have no right to withhold it from me. The only one with that right is our Father, or a command from Him to Michael. Arrest me afterwards if you have to, but give me back what’s mine!”

“Sam!” Gabriel hissed out, voice shocked. His grip tightened on Sam and he was pulling him back like he was going to physically yank him away before anyone could think of taking him up on his offer.

“Right, so you can turn around and escape.” Raphael said, sneering.

“Is that what you’re afraid of, brother?” Sam took a small step forward, his expression hardening. “Or are you afraid of the things I’ll tell them once I get there?”

A loud crack of thunder cut off all their voices and stopped the argument in its tracks. “Enough!” Michael strode forward, hands outstretched as he placed himself between them. The sheer power rolling off of him was enough to silence them all and have them frozen in place. The other archangels had been the only ones to ever be able to stand up to Michael when he was in a temper, but even then, it was risky. They didn’t take the risk unless they absolutely had to. Sam had always preferred to work from the sidelines anyways. Fighting directly had never been his style, or Gabriel’s either. Right now, with Sam human, it was even more risky than normal. They all stayed silent and stared at their eldest brother.

Satisfied that they were all quiet, Michael dropped his hands down and looked from one side to the other. “This fighting will stop, now.” He turned and glared at Raphael. “If you are in possession of Raziel’s grace, you will return it right this instant, and then you’ll report home. I’ll deal with you when I get there.”

“Michael!” Raphael immediately protested.

“Is it not enough I have to lose one brother? Do I have to lose another?”

Those words were enough to have Gabriel and Sam tensing all over again. There was nothing good in those words. Sam felt Gabriel’s grip tighten almost to the point of pain, yet he didn’t say a word. He stood there and held back as tightly as he could and watched in silence as Raphael briefly fumed before he finally gave in. He knew he was no chance against Michael. When he stepped forward to hand the necklace to their oldest brother, his eyes briefly cut over to Sam and there was threat and promise both in there that made it clear this wasn’t over. Not by a long shot.

Sam could only relax a little when Raphael vanished. They weren’t out of the woods yet. Michael was still here, still in John Winchester. The look on his face when he turned towards Sam and Gabriel was one that Sam didn’t quite recognize. Not on John’s face. He couldn’t place it and it only made him even more on edge. What was going to happen now?

“I won’t let you arrest him.” Gabriel said before anyone else could get a chance to speak. His stance shifted and he deliberately placed himself just slightly in front of Sam in a move meant to show who he was protecting here.

Michael didn’t react to the threat. He looked at Gabriel and his expression gentled ever so slightly. What he said next surprised them both. “I’m glad that you two found one another. I always hoped that you would.”

There was something there, a pain that sounded ages old, and Sam felt a moment of regret. He’d known that his leaving would hurt others. Especially those who didn’t understand why he’d left. Sam knew that Michael would most likely not believe a single word from Sam as to why he’d left. Raphael had had too much time to make sure that his lies looked believable. Too many things had been done to make sure that the archangel Raziel looked like almost as bad of a traitor as Lucifer. Nothing that Sam said now would change that. Yet, as he looked at a brother he’d once loved, one he still loved, Sam said the only thing he could think of. “I’m sorry, Michael. For everything.”

“So am I.” Michael walked forward and, ignoring Gabriel’s threatening posture, held out the vial with Sam’s grace inside. He watched Sam’s eyes as the hunter reached out to take it from him. “I’m especially sorry about this. Your crimes against Heaven are great, but that’s no cause for us to stoop just as low.”

Closing his hand over the little bottle and bringing it back to himself, back to the safety of his and Gabriel’s protection, relaxed Sam a little more. “Thank you.”

“I’m giving this to you because it’s yours. Not because your crimes are forgiven.” Michael told him. He looked pained as he said “You know you can’t come back.”

“I know.” Sam said softly. He’d always known that. Heaven was closed to him; it wasn’t home anymore. If banishment was the only price he would have to pay, it was a small one and he would willingly pay it. At least he’d still be alive and able to help protect his family. It didn’t matter if they didn’t want him there. He’d still do everything possible to keep them safe.

Beside him, Gabriel made a pained sound, and Michael turned to him. “Our home is still open to you, Gabriel. You’ve been sorely missed and your presence would be celebrated.” Even as he made his offer, the look that Michael wore made it clear he knew what answer Gabriel would give.

Sure enough, Gabriel snorted. “You think I’d go anywhere without him?”

“No.” Michael said, a sad smile curving his lips. “But I had to make the offer.” He looked at them both and the sadness he felt was easy to see in every inch of his vessel. It dulled his eyes and gave him a look that Sam had seen before – one he’d hoped never to have to see again. One he hated being the cause of. “Know that it’s always open to you, should you wish to return. I would greatly welcome your presence.”

“I have a home here now, Mikey.” Surprisingly, Gabriel sounded almost sorry as he said it.

Michael’s eyes drifted to Sam again. “Yes, I suppose you do.”

For one brief second the trio was silent as they stood there and stared at one another. Then Michael stunned them by taking one step back and vanishing. Sam almost stumbled after him, as if by reaching out he could somehow make him stop, make him come back. There were so many questions that Sam still had, the least of which was what was going to happen with John now that Michael was done with him. Would he remain dead, go to Heaven, or was this a full resurrection? Would they bring him back?

Unfortunately, moving forward also reminded his body of quite a few things – namely, just how exhausted he was. Everything he’d been through, everything that Raphael had done, this whole fight, all of it had taken its toll. Gabriel had healed Sam’s body but the damage to his grace and the exhaustion all of it left behind wasn’t something that he could take away. Thankfully, Gabriel was there to catch Sam as his legs tried to melt underneath him, those strong arms wrapping around him and holding him in place. “Woah there, sweetheart.”

“Sorry.” Sam let himself slump a little in Gabriel’s arms. His legs didn’t want to hold him and he wasn’t sure he wanted to try and test them again yet. It was far easier to just lean on Gabriel and let his partner hold him up.

“It’s all right, I gotcha.” The hold around him shifted and Sam felt as it they were carefully lowered down to the ground. It was much easier once they were there for Gabriel to draw him in until Sam was cradled against Gabriel’s chest, situated between his legs.

The soothing feel of Gabriel’s grace reached out and brushed against the bruised parts of Sam’s own. It didn’t hurt or terrify him the way that feeling Raphael’s grace had. This touch wasn’t meant to damage. It was meant to heal and to show love. The gesture spoke more than any words could. They told of the absolute terror that Gabriel had felt when he found Sam gone, how he’d wanted to rip his hair out searching for him – and the joy and relief and love that swamped him now at having Sam back in his arms.

Gabriel made a pained sound above him and he bent down to press his face against Sam’s hair. Though he couldn’t see them, the hunter knew that wings were wrapped around him right now. “I’m so sorry, little spider. I can’t… I can’t heal what he did. Your grace…”

He didn’t need to finish it – Sam knew. He could feel the damage that Raphael had done. He’d hurt Sam without worrying at all about what the end result might be. He hadn’t cared about causing irrevocable damage. What he’d done, there wasn’t enough grace in Sam to heal it by himself, and his grace was too small and tender for Gabriel to heal it without doing more damage than good. There was only one thing that could help him.

Sam looked down at the little vial in his hands that held the part of himself he’d been without for so long. He stared at it, this little thing he’d been fighting to find just a day ago, and he felt both excited and afraid.

This was something that he wanted – needed – and yet he couldn’t help but be afraid of it. How much would he change when he got his grace back? How much would he lose? He’d always been one of the most human of all the angels, yet his time on earth had taught him so much more. His time as Sam had taught him so much. Would he lose that once he was back to being an angel? Would he lose the lessons that humanity had taught him? There were things he’d suspected before, things he’d felt, but he’d never truly understood them. No angel really could. Not unless they lived it. Would he lose all that when he took his grace back?

“I’ll remind you.” Gabriel whispered against his hair.

A soft smile touched Sam’s lips. Gabriel would remind him. He wouldn’t let Sam be alone.

This was it. This was the moment that Sam had been waiting for since the instant he’d gotten his grace back – from the instant he’d ripped it out, really. It was time to put himself back together. It was time to be whole.

When he broke the seal on the top of the bottle, he held his breath as little tendrils of grace came coiling out, the light a familiar warmth that lit up the grace inside of him.

He heard Gabriel’s soft “I love you” whispered against his hair. It was the last thing his human ears heard as the light came pouring out and everything in the world went white.

Chapter Text

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.

“What?”

“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.