Sam walks slowly and a bit painfully down to the soda machine he'd found, in a little alcove at the end of the hall and down a few steps. The hotel is five states distant from the atomized assembly plant and at least six cuts above their normal flops and he'll bet anything these are the main reasons Gabriel dropped them here – this isn't the type of place anybody'd ever look for the Winchester boys at. There's even a parking garage hiding the Impala, which had gone a long way towards calming Dean's irritation about unscheduled travel via AngelAir.
Trouble is, Gabriel's not around to ask, and hasn't been since he whammied them here more than three hours ago.
Sam leans wearily against the wall as he counts out dimes and nickels – quarters are for laundry – when there's a soft click and he's abruptly holding a can of diet Coke, very cold.
"Buy you a drink?"
Sam jerks around.
Gabriel leans against the stairwell wall, two steps up, arms folded across his chest. He's disheveled and tired-looking and altogether the best thing Sam's seen in forever. Sam doesn't think; he just moves. He crosses the tiny alcove in three steps and wraps his arms around Gabriel's waist, pulling him into a hug.
Gabriel's stone-still in Sam's embrace and it occurs to Sam, belatedly, that maybe this isn't the smartest thing he could have done. But then Gabriel breathes in and sighs and softens into something human, and his arms come around Sam's shoulders, and something in Sam that's been wound tight for the last three hours relaxes with a thump. The steps have taken care of the difference in their heights for the moment, and Sam lays his forehead against Gabriel's shoulder. "Hi."
"Hi there," Gabriel says quietly. His arms tighten. "Didn't miss me or anything, did you?" he asks after a minute or two. His breath is tingly-warm against Sam's ear.
"Not a bit." Sam just breathes, smelling ozone and the copper tang of blood and beneath those, faintly, something like mint and chocolate. He wants to dig his fingers into Gabriel's jacket and not let go. He feels weirdly – whole, like something missing has slotted into place. "Are you okay?"
Gabriel huffs. "Archangel, Sam. We're pretty hardy." His hands shift and push, gently, and Sam lets himself be moved away. Dammit. "Castiel?"
Up close, the sharp lines of Gabriel's face, normally so animated, remind Sam more of Castiel now, as if Gabriel doesn't quite have the energy to bother with little stuff like human expressions. And his eyes still seem to have a faint glow.
"I'm not sure. His body's breathing, he's stopped bleeding, but he hasn't really come around since you dropped us off. Thanks for all this, by the way," Sam says, and Gabriel snorts again.
"If you think I'd put my brother in one of your usual charming fleabag rattraps, you're out of your mind."
"You've put him worse places," springs to Sam's mouth unbidden, remembering the fun and frolic of their TV-Land adventures.
Gabriel winces. Tiny, but there. Fuck. Sam sighs. "I didn't mean that."
"Yes, you did," Gabriel says flatly. "So, show me."
Why not just – yeah. Pretty carved rib bone camouflage, check. "This way," Sam says, and starts up the steps.
Gabriel comes with him, and stumbles at the top.
"Whoa." Sam grabs his shoulder.
Gabriel straightens and shakes him off. "Long flight. Let's go."
Dean's not in the suite's main room when Sam opens the door, but he's there not ten seconds later. "Finally," he growls, glaring at Gabriel. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Making sure nothing could follow me and find your stupid, vessel-licious asses, of course." Gabriel pushes past him, heading unerringly for the room Castiel is in.
Sam had helped Dean clean Castiel up a bit before they'd laid him down on the bed, but it had been rather like dealing with a floppy, sleeping five-year-old, writ large. Or so Dean had said, and he would know. Gabriel sits on the edge of the bed, making no comment on Castiel stripped down to undershirt and trousers, and lays his hand on his brother's forehead.
Dean's a tense mess next to Sam where they stand watching from the doorway, jaw clenched hard enough that he'll crack teeth if he's not careful. Nothing Sam can do will help at this point, and Sam knows it. But Dean leans toward him, just a little, and that will have to be enough.
"Castiel," Gabriel says softly, followed by a string of words Sam can't identify, but the hair stands on the back of his neck. The room feels abruptly full, as though something vast has unfolded, a shadow against the wall – and Castiel blinks.
Dean makes a tight little sound.
"Castiel," Gabriel says again. Castiel murmurs something this time, and Gabriel replies, still in that language Sam doesn't know. Although, maybe, if he –
Dean's next to the bed like he's levitated there. "Cas?" he says roughly. That does the trick, it seems, because Castiel's eyes actually open this time. The low sigh he gives has Dean's name mixed into it, and Dean leans close.
Gabriel climbs to his feet with obvious effort and walks to the doorway, gathering Sam through it with a motion. In the main room, Gabriel drops onto the couch with a grunt. Sam eyes him a moment, then makes a detour into the kitchen, abandoning his unopened soda on the counter. When he rejoins Gabriel, he presses a bottle of cold water into the archangel's hand. Gabriel looks at it a moment like he's never seen one before, then twists off the top and downs most of it in one go.
Sam's earlier assessment of "tired-looking" was optimistic because frankly, Gabriel looks like seven different kinds of hell. He's never even seen the guy out of breath before because you know, archangel and all that, but right now Gabriel looks like Sam feels, and that's saying something. Sam wants to gather him in again, hold him, wants to…wants.
But…"What did you do?" is all he asks, quietly, sitting sideways on the couch with one leg beneath him and wincing as his thigh muscles protest the maneuver.
"Sam?" Gabriel is watching him.
"'S fine," Sam says. "Just sore."
Gabriel's eyes narrow. "I don't think so."
"Okay, really damn sore, and a little chewed here and there. Nothing that won't heal. What did you do to Cas?" Sam asks again.
Gabriel looks like he'd like to badger Sam into coughing up the whole truth, but doesn't have the energy. "Nothing much. Called him."
"Back from where he was. Went walking the dog and got a little lost, that's all. Be his ball of yarn." Gabriel's eyes have closed.
"That – didn't actually make a lot of sense."
"Sure it did."
"Did you heal him? The vessel, I mean?" Because he's got a hunch, Sam does.
Gabriel's shoulders shift. "Little nudge."
Little nudge, Sam's ass. "Thanks."
Gabriel's chest rises, then falls as he pushes air out in another long, slow sigh. "I have no clue what the fuck I'm doing here. I should be anywhere but here, hanging around with you insane people. Why the hells am I here?"
Sam's gut twists, but he just shrugs. "'Cause we're entertaining, and I made Dean promise to share the pie?"
Gabriel opens his eyes and looks at Sam, and then, for the first time that Sam remembers, he laughs. Really laughs – not the Trickster's mocking chuckle, but full-out, honest mirth.
Sam likes it. A lot.
Gabriel winds down after a minute and lays his head against the cushioned couch back, eyes closing again. "Yeah, that must be it. Makes as much sense as anything else to do with you Winchesters."
Sam looks at him, at the sharp profile and the mess of his chestnut hair. The clothes that still carry rips and the smell of blood. "Another bed in the other room," Sam says.
"I don't sleep," Gabriel shoots back, or tries to. But the words sound a little slurred.
That settles it for Sam. "Yeah, I know you don't. C'mon, it's not far," he says, putting a hand on Gabriel's arm. "Otherwise Dean'll just be sitting on you when he wants to watch tv, and then I'll have to listen to the bitching and that won't end well for anybody."
Gabriel's mouth quirks. "So you're telling me to go lay down for purely selfish and sadly non-erotic reasons."
Something catches, hard, in Sam's chest. Could it really…? "Half right," he manages. "Selfish now. We can discuss 'erotic' later, when we can both see straight." Jesus Christ but he's tired, did he really just say that?
Gabriel's eyes snap back open and he stares, mouth dropping open. Sam can only look back and hope he hasn't made one of the more monumental mistakes of his life. That faint gold glow still lingers in Gabriel's eyes and his arm is warm beneath Sam's hand and Jesus fucking Christ, Sam has just kinda-sorta propositioned an archangel.
An archangel whose mouth, after an endless moment, curves up into a slow, genuine smile. "Long as I know where I stand."
The rush of relief and joy and whatever the fuck else has Sam dizzy. Gabriel's lips look chapped and pink and they pull Sam in like a magnet. "You're sitting, actually," he murmurs, barely aware of what he's saying as he leans helplessly closer.
Gabriel isn't moving away.
"Was all a plan, because you're so damn tall."
Gabriel's voice is soft and a little rough, and Sam's close enough now to feel the warmth of the words brush against his own lips. "Uh-huh," he breathes, and closes the gap.
Gabriel's mouth is soft, too, soft and warm and dry, and Sam could possibly do this forever. He's lightheaded and tingly, something like electricity washing through him as Gabriel kisses him back, touch and retreat and touch again. Warm and dry turns warm and gently wet as lips part and tongues meet. It's nothing like Sam imagined, not the hot wild rush but a slow, almost tentative sweetness that makes something ache in his chest.
When Sam finally pulls back far enough to focus, Gabriel's eyes are nearly closed. His mouth is wet and kissed-pink and curved in a small smile, but every other line in his face screams of fatigue. "C'mon, you need to lie down," Sam whispers.
The kissed-pink mouth moues into a pout. "Alone?" Gabriel peers at Sam from under his lashes and Sam wants to giggle, it's so blatantly over the top. Which tells him how exhausted he truly is, because Sam Winchester does not giggle.
"Nope," he says, because really, it's not a decision. "Because I'm really fucking tired too, and there's only that one other bed."
"So, purely selfish reasons, then," Gabriel concludes as he watches Sam heave himself off the couch.
Gabriel could probably just snap himself into the bedroom, but for some reason he lets Sam catch his hand and haul him to his feet. "Purely, entirely selfish," Sam agrees.
He's not sure what wakes him; it's almost like a little…tickle? A breath of a breath of a nudge, maybe, at the back of his mind. He's comfortable – the sheets are like a zillion threadcount and the pillows are fluffy and the mattress is beyond fantastic – but still there's something…ah. The long roll of thunder, and the patter of rain against glass. Sam smiles. Just a thunderstorm. Or…wait.
He rolls over. Lightning flashes, strobing into the room, illuminating an enormous set of…wings.
The stark kiss of shock nails him to the bed, but he must have gasped anyway, because the figure at the window shifts and it's just a man now, human-shaped, distinctive profile lit by the streetlight leaking in. "Thought your nerves were better than that," Gabriel says.
Gabriel. He'd gone to bed with Gabriel. He'd gone to sleep with Gabriel in his arms.
So why is Gabriel no longer in them?
Cold trickles down Sam's spine. "My – nerves are just fine, thanks."
Gabriel's soft snort is eloquent enough. Sam wills his racing heart to calm and decides not to mention what he thinks he just saw. But the adrenaline racing through his system pretty much guarantees that he's not going back to sleep soon.
Sam props up on an elbow and watches, both the storm and the being in front of the window. Thunder rolls. Pretty close, then.
Gabriel doesn't move, and Sam watches the shape of him. A narrow waist that Sam has now touched, and solid shoulders nearly as broad as Dean's, for all their difference in heights. Gabriel is loose shirts and comfort these days, but Sam remembers their first encounter perfectly, and how well the janitor's workshirt and plain pants had fit him. Right now he's in the boxers and sleeveless undershirt that he'd let Sam undress him to before they'd both collapsed into the bed, and neither leaves much to the imagination.
Even tired enough to drop, Sam has a very vivid imagination.
Lightning flashes again and this time the thunder cracks loud and immediate, practically shivering the building. Gabriel doesn't even twitch, but Sam sucks in air in a soundless whistle. "Right on top of us now," he says. And pauses as an awful thought occurs. "Is this…."
"Natural?" Gabriel finishes. "Yeah. Mostly."
"Mostly." That's not precisely comforting.
Gabriel lays a hand against the glass. "The storm is just atmospheric, but someone could be making use of it, catching a ride. Don't sense anything, but…." His hand fists. I'm tired. He doesn't say that, but Sam hears it all the same.
Then come lay back down, idiot, Sam doesn't say.
Gabriel turns his head halfway, so Sam's got his profile again. "Nothing for you to lose beauty sleep over," he finishes. As if on cue, the light show resumes and the artillery barrage pounds, almost immediate. And again, there are – wings.
"Uhm, yeah, no," Sam says on a tight exhale. "Not sleeping through that." Gabriel turns to look full at him, now, eyebrows tight, and maybe it's the weird half-light, but – "Speaking of beauty sleep, come back to bed."
Gabriel's mouth purses. "I told you –"
"Gabriel, you look like shit."
Both of Gabriel's eyebrows go up. "Wow. That line work well for you?"
"Injures the grace, Cas said." Sam's not even really sure why he's pushing this. All right, yes, that's a damn lie, he does know. "Even for somebody like you, that's got to sting. Are we safe here?"
"For a reasonable definition of the word 'safe,' yes," Gabriel says slowly.
"Well then." Sam gestures at the empty side of the bed. Because Gabriel wants to leave, his apparent hots for Sam's body notwithstanding; Sam just knows it. Wants to run, click away somewhere and re-bury himself in the Trickster he's been for centuries and if he does, something in Sam is going to shred into achy little pieces, small as when Jess died. Possibly smaller.
Wow, he's not admitting that to anybody, ever.
Gabriel's staring at him like the archangel is picking Sam apart with his brain, and possibly he is. Whatever he sees, though, is apparently enough. He comes back over to the bed and flops down with all the innate grace of a cranky six-year-old, and heaves an enormous sigh. "Are you happy now?"
"Ecstatic," Sam says, in the driest tone he owns.
Gabriel looks at him sharply. Sam keeps his face perfectly straight. It doesn't even take a minute before Gabriel snorts and then starts to laugh, low and warm, much as he had earlier. Sam likes the sound now just as much. There has to be some way….
Because Gabriel does want him, Sam knows this now. Is there somehow, some way of a ghost of a chance that Sam could – keep this?
The storm still rattles at the window but inside, Gabriel has wound down. He's lying starfished on the bed, the curled fingers of one hand brushing against Sam's arm. He's also taking up more room than should be possible, and Sam's glad it's a king mattress. Gabriel's eyes are closed, a faint smirk pulling at his mouth.
God, Sam really, really wants to kiss him again.
Like he'd heard that, Gabriel opens his eyes and looks up at Sam, his expression shifting from mirth to something more intent. He reaches up and trails fingers behind Sam's ear and there's that electricity again, a warm tingle under Sam's skin. Sam wants, wants – he turns his head and kisses the inside of Gabriel's wrist.
"Intent" doesn't do justice to the look now when Sam meets Gabriel's eyes again, and if this is how Castiel looks at Dean all the time, Sam has no clue how his brother doesn't just burst in flames under it. Gabriel's fingers slide into Sam's hair and pull, and there's no part of Sam that thinks of resisting.
Warm and wet and sweeter this time, like the candy Gabriel is constantly eating. Morning – or midnight or whatever the hell time it is – breath apparently isn't a problem for angels and if Sam's mouth isn't fresh, Gabriel evidently doesn't mind. Gabriel licks just inside, tongue on the tender underside of Sam's lip, and Sam invites him right on in, meeting him. Gabriel steals Sam's breath and gives it back again, infused with something that makes Sam dizzy. Sam makes a little sound in his chest and presses a little harder, chasing the taste. Gabriel makes a sound too, a soft little half-groan that makes the hair on Sam's neck stand up and God, he wants to hear that sound again. He wants to make Gabriel make that sound again.
Gabriel's hand tightens around Sam's skull and he pulls, pressing closer, and Sam puts his right hand down hard on the mattress for balance. And jerks and swears softly as pain shoots up his arm.
"Not quite the reaction I was going for," Gabriel murmurs, and Sam half-chuckles.
"S'not bad. Just my hand, and it'll heal." Sam kisses the corner of Gabriel's mouth.
"Mhm, when I pulled the rod. Damn thing bit me a little before I got it out," Sam mutters, more interesting in touring the edge of Gabriel's jaw than in conversation.
Gabriel freezes. "Bit you?"
Well, shit. Why can't he ever keep his mouth shut? "Just a little," he sighs, and doesn't bother trying to resist as Gabriel pushes him back. A soft click and there's light in the room, dim but still enough to make Sam squint as Gabriel sits up and grabs his hand. "Wasn't worth mentioning."
"You got bitten by Adamical curse magic and you didn't think it was worth mentioning?"
Man, nobody did sarcasm like an angel of the Lord. Sam rolls his eyes. "Like you said – Adamical curse. Really damn specific, like they all are, and aimed at you guys, not us humans. There was nothing it could do to me except chew a bit."
Gabriel is holding Sam's hand palm up, staring at the barely-closed gashes. "And make you bleed, Sam. In a room full of binding magic."
Gabriel looks up and his eyes are hard. "What happened to the rod?"
Sam refuses to swallow. "Toast. Incinerated with the rest of the place when you did your fiery angel act."
"Where else did you bleed?"
His stomach twists. "On you," Sam whispers, and Gabriel's eyes close. "On you, before you came back. And you went through me when you did, and I heard you, didn't I? Telling me to shut my eyes…" Blood and power and magic – "Fuck, Gabriel, what did you do?"
Gabriel's eyes snap open, and Sam's pinned with that bright amber gaze. "We, Sam. Your blood, my grace. Takes two to tango, but this is a whole new dance step ain't nobody ever tried before." He lets go of Sam's hand.
Sam looks down at his own hand and then back at Gabriel. He opens his mouth – and stops dead as something – happens. Something rings in his head like a musical chime, soft and pure, a clean, beautiful, trumpet-like sound that vibrates through him and doesn't so much fade away as settle into his bones, an echoing hum. It feels – God, it feels wonderful. "What the hell?" he manages, staring at Gabriel. "Did you –"
Gabriel nods. "You heard that." His mouth twists. "Dandy. Don't know how I didn't – no, I know how I didn't sense it, I'm still scrambled up like a three-egg omelet. Congratulations, Sam – we're hitched. You're bonded to an archangel."
Sam just gapes, like somebody's pushed the "pause" button on his brain. He knows his mouth is moving, but it's a minute before anything comes out. "W-what?! Bonded?! How the hell –"
Gabriel smirks, and it's sharp and bitter. "I don't know, didn't I just say that? No angel's bonded a human since Enoch and sure the fuck not by accident. Hells, we don't bond each other anymore." The last words are bitten off and his eyes close, the Trickster's mocking smile twisting his lips. /And the joke's on me this time, isn't it?/
Did Sam just hear – what the fuck? "Gabriel –"
"Oh, don't worry, your virtue's safe and all that, I won't – yeah. You know what? Some space'd be good."
But there's a sound like the rustle of giant wings and a push of air, and Sam's the only one on the bed. Something pulls in his chest, pulls, stretches – and Sam grabs with no clue how he's doing it and holds on tight. Fuck all if he knows what's going on yet, but one thing he is sure of – he doesn't want to lose this. /Don't do this. God, Gabriel, don't do this. Wait, please, just – wait./
And the pull – stops. The chime echo is fainter, but it's still there.
Sam blows out a long, hard breath and sits up, pulls his knees up and lays his arms across them and puts his head down. He's got a new ache in his chest, and this one's not physical. "Jesus fucking hell."