Sam and Gabriel had returned downstairs and were sitting at the kitchen table eating what looked like bowls of Fruit Loops by the time Dean finally dared to show his face back inside the house that night. He paused to raise an eyebrow, unable to remember Sam eating sugary cereal since he turned twelve, much less as an evening snack. Gabriel's influence, no doubt – though whether good or bad was still up for debate.
"Hey, congratulations!" his brother greeted him cheerfully, shit eating grin fixed firmly in place. "You finally stopped hiding in the Impala!"
Dean flipped him off.
The archangel, looking up, jabbed a spoon in his direction, managing to inadvertently splatter milk across Sam. Ignoring the resultant squawk of protest, Gabriel mumbled through a mouthful of multicoloured food, "Oh good. C'mere, sit down a minute. I wanna talk to you about Castiel."
Instantly, Dean froze. "Cas? Why? Did he say something? What did he say? Whatever he said, that's not how it happened."
Both Sam and Gabriel stopped eating, staring at him wordlessly, and Dean winced as he realised he might just have given himself away a little bit there. Sure enough, Sam got that god-awful look of suspicious curiosity that Dean generally tried to avoid like the plague. He glared right back, hoping to head it off.
He was very nearly grateful for Gabriel's presence when, after a few seconds, the archangel held up a forestalling hand. "Please. Don't say any more. I honestly can't imagine anything I want less than to hear the sordid details of whatever awkward fumblings you inflicted on my brother."
Sam scrunched up his nose with a sad little, "Ew..." and pointedly went back to his cereal.
Through gritted teeth, Dean ground out furiously, "I didn't 'inflict' anything."
Gabriel scoffed. "Yeah, so don't care. But seriously, listen a second. It's come to my attention that, as the older sibling, I have some responsibilities here."
"Oh – screw you, Gabriel. I don't need this."
But Gabriel continued as though uninterrupted, now brandishing his spoon at Dean like it was something threatening. "Not to be cliché or anything, but if I understand my role in this correctly, I'm supposed to tell you that if you pull any of your usual crap with my brother, I'll do very bad things to you."
That, at least, surprised an involuntary laugh from him. "You're kidding, right? Dude, you don't have superpowers anymore and you're, like, pocketsize. You really think you can take me?" Smirking, he looked over at Sam as if to share the joke, only to find his brother crunching on Fruit Loops with a perfectly impassive expression.
"No, Dean, he's serious. And creative. And a former avenging angel. So just... yanno. Be nice to Cas. How hard can that be?"
Dean rewarded them both with a vaguely alarmed look, before turning on his heel and all but hightailing it back out of the room.
Sam and Gabriel waited just long enough to be sure he was out of earshot, and then cracked up into shared laughter.
"Okay, okay, you were right. That was way too easy..."
That something had happened between his brother and Cas was obvious, but for once Sam really wasn't looking for the inside scoop on that one. Let Dean clean up his own mess. Sam would intervene if and only if Cas started reaching for the nearest pill bottle again.
Currently, however, he had decided to take a small leaf out of Dean's book and take just a minute or two alone. It was impossible to do inside, with the five of them plus Crowley occupying a medium sized house, so he'd come out to sit on the porch steps, a thick jacket pulled tight around his shoulders against the cold and a beer in hand, held loosely between his knees. He watched the stars idly and wondered what the hell he was playing at.
This thing with Gabriel was getting to the point where even Sam couldn't manage to ignore it anymore. It was one thing to tolerate the archangel's flirting, comfortable in the knowledge that it didn't mean anything. But somewhere along the way, he'd gone and made a pretty significant mistake: he'd let himself forget that it didn't mean anything. Gabriel might not be serious in his intentions, but Sam... well. The last time he'd had a crush that had started off like this, it had been on Jess. Kind of said it all, really.
The thing was, it had been a long, long time since Sam had had anything like an actual friend – and good god that made him sound like a loser, he realised despairingly, but still couldn't deny the truth of it. There was Dean, of course, and throughout his life Dean had played pretty much every role imaginable (brother, parent, work partner, teacher, hero, responsibility) but he wasn't technically a friend. Sam was pretty sure you got to pick friends, and Dean was more obligatory than anything else.
There was Cas, he supposed, who maybe fit the definition a little better, particularly after the last few weeks. Although, that said, Sam had spent the first year or so of knowing him thinking the angel uptight and intimidating; a fellow soldier but not necessarily 'friend' material. And then, after that – well. It became increasingly obvious that Castiel was, first and foremost, Dean's 'friend', and Sam just was not going to interfere with that if someone paid him.
But then there was Gabriel, with whom he'd spent almost four hours just that afternoon doing nothing more than Googling every bit of geeky internet entertainment they could think of: YouTube virals and search-engine wars, web-comics and boredom sites like FML. Gabriel, upon discovering the latter, had promptly typed in, 'You think you guys got it bad? Today, I realised that one day soon my brother-in-law is going to be Dean Winchester. FML!1!' and Sam hadn't stopped laughing inappropriately for ten whole minutes.
It was almost a strange experience, sharing with someone else the idle pastimes Sam secretly amused himself with when no one else was around. In fact, it was the first time since Stanford he'd hung out with someone who, a) actually enjoyed the same things as him, b) wasn't a fellow hunter, or acquainted with him solely through Dean, and c) wasn't Dean. Truth was, he hadn't been lying to his brother when he'd confessed he and the archangel had somehow become friends over the past few weeks, and that was maybe the most pervasive thing about the whole stupid infatuation. He liked Gabriel, in every sense of the word, and apparently he really was open-minded enough for it not to matter all that much that Gabriel was a guy – which was, quite honestly, news to Sam.
He shivered slightly in the night time breeze and took a swig of beer. Frankly, the whole thing would be a lot easier if Gabriel just had his Grace back already. Ignoring, for a moment, the myriad of other problems, at least then Sam wouldn't have to harbour the vague paranoia that he'd only be serving as some sort of – what was it he'd called it? – angelic methadone or something.
There was a sudden commotion behind him, startling him from his thoughts, and Sam turned just in time to see Bobby appear on the porch holding Gabriel by the scruff of his collar. He shoved the sullen archangel in Sam's direction, growling, "Take your idjit and tell him to stay the hell outta my kitchen."
Resignedly, Sam took his idjit.
He reached out to grab Gabriel's sleeve as the archangel tripped towards him, too busy glaring over his shoulder to look where he was going. Bobby grunted sceptically and disappeared back inside, the slam of the front door closing on them ringing jarringly through the salvage yard.
"Well he's just a regular ray of sunshine, isn't he?" Gabriel muttered, absently shaking Sam off and dropping down to sit next to him on the step.
"What did you do?"
The angel shrugged innocently. "I wanted pancakes."
"You have noidea how to cook pancakes," Sam pointed out, equally reasonable.
Gabriel made a well duh! hand gesture. "No, and I never will if I don't try, will I? The ability to make pancakes is a very important life skill if I'm going to be stuck like this, and I really don't feel he was particularly encouraging towards my efforts–"
"Oh god, you set something on fire, didn't you?" Despite himself, Sam barked laughter and shook his head. "You could have just asked, yanno. I'd have made you pancakes rather than risk Bobby's house burning to the ground."
"Well thanks, sweetheart." Gabriel grinned up at him obnoxiously, bumping their shoulders together. "You're a doll."
Sam sent him a narrow-eyed glance and said dryly, "Be that as it may, I'm nota 50's housewife, so if you could stop addressing me like one please...?"
Clearly amused, the archangel didn't respond but reached across to steal Sam's beer. Without a word, he finished it off in one go, tipping the bottle back. Sam watched with perhaps a little too much interest. In fact, he was so busy watching that it took him a moment or two to notice he'd been caught, and hurriedly cast his gaze out across the yard, flushing with mild embarrassment.
"...So Sammy." Gabriel sounded far too casual and unconcerned, which should probably have tipped Sam off to the fact that they were about to venture into hazardous territory.
He cleared his throat, still busy avoiding eye contact. "What's up?"
The archangel set the bottle down by his knee and twirled a hand in a contemplative gesture. "Just out of curiosity," he said slowly, "you maybe wanna give me a timeline on when you're finally gonna get around to jumping me?"
Sam promptly choked on nothing in particular. "...Wh-what?"
Gabriel shrugged like he was being perfectly reasonable. "Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm enjoying all this passive-aggressive, sexually-repressed foreplay as much as the next guy, but it is coming to an end soon, right?" When Sam only continued to stare at him incredulously, he blinked, hesitating. "...Right?"
"Gabriel!" Sam pulled away from him, mortified. "I'm not... I haven't just been playing hard to get or something! Why would you think that?" He really hadn't. Not... exactly.
The archangel just looked at him, deadpan. "You cannot be that dumb, kid."
Sam winced. Okay, stupid question. He was maybe just a little bit at fault here. Alarmed, he held his hands up. "Stop. Just... stop. This is a misunderstanding."
"What misunderstanding? Not to regress to fourteen year olds or anything, but you do like me, right?"
Yes he liked the archangel, but he couldn't come out and say it. He was abruptly frozen, mute. The last time... The last time had been Jess, for god's sake. There'd been no one since, no one that mattered, and he felt suddenly like he'd forgotten how to do this.
He ended up saying nothing at all, at a loss.
Gabriel's amused, inquisitive expression closed off gradually and he drew back, putting distance between them. "Oh." He looked genuinely surprised, blinking at Sam like he couldn't believe he'd miscalculated. "Oh. Well. My mistake, I guess..."
The archangel rose to his feet briskly and without his usual composure, accidentally knocking over the empty bottle with a clatter. They both jumped. Recovering himself, Gabriel jabbed a thumb over his shoulder towards the house. "Gonna go see a man about getting some pancakes. Talk to you later, Sammy."
Watching him disappear, Sam let out a quiet growl of frustration and covered his face with both hands. Sometimes... sometimes he just sucked.
Later, when Sam finally retired upstairs for the night to find his brother already sitting in bed rereading Slaughterhouse 5 (which, with Dean, might as well be the comfort equivalent of consuming a litre of ice cream and watching a soppy movie) Sam froze in the doorway. They stared at each other. Dean immediately narrowed his eyes, as though he knew straight away that something significant had happened just by taking a look at him. He opened his mouth like he was about to ask.
Before he could, Sam cut him off at the pass.
"So. You wanna talk about what happened with Cas?"
Green eyes widened fractionally, then hardened with annoyance. "...Not even a little bit."
Matter settled, Sam got into bed and turned out the light, immediately rolling over to face the wall. Dean grunted at him quietly from the darkness, sullen.