For Love is Strong as Death

Chapter 15

With the angels back to normal (one of them gone entirely) Sam had been half expecting to be back on the road by the next day at the latest. He could tell that Dean was starting to feel the familiar itch of restlessness in his bones (so was Sam, if he was going to be honest about it). But Bobby, having taken one look at the full extent of the damage done to his house by the angels' unexpected and miraculous recovery, had demanded in no uncertain terms that they stick around long enough to clean up their own damn mess.

Apparently the shockwave had been worse than they'd first thought, as for the last three days they'd been finding more and more bits and pieces that needed repairing wherever they looked; cracks running up walls, splits in the wooden flooring. It wouldn't be such a big deal except they'd realised that even minor flaws like those could well be disrupting the runes of warding and protection Bobby had inlaid into every square inch of the place. It all needed fixing, fast. And worse, if Sam wasn't mistaken Bobby was in genuine mourning for some of the books that had been inadvertently ripped or torn, so he really didn't feel like testing his temper by skipping out on the clean-up.

Currently, Sam was occupied in knocking out the last remnants of broken glass that still remained around the edges of one of the upstairs windows, in preparation for the new pane that would have to be put in. He could hear the distant rhythmic pounding of Dean with a hammer somewhere downstairs, violently broadcasting all the unresolved sexual frustration that Sam was desperately, desperately trying to ignore.

Castiel had disappeared without explanation for a day and a half after his recovery, presumably off taking care of Important Angel Business – but then, to everybody's mutual and unacknowledged surprise, he'd come back. Not to warn them of some new apocalyptic event, or inform them in his usual voice of doom about a hunt the next town over, but simply to hover about exactly as he'd been doing before. Still clad in his thrift store jeans and army jacket; still content to sit and read whatever book Sam had last recommended; still, for all intents and purposes, acting human. It was weird, frankly, and it seemed to be throwing Dean completely for a loop. His brother hadn't been this jittery around Cas since the days immediately after his resurrection.

The reinstated angel had even tried to help out with the repair work, under Sam's patient supervision. But after he'd misjudged his newly restored strength and promptly put a hammer straight through the floorboards, only creating yet more work for them, Dean had stepped in and furiously banned him from all and any further DIY attempts. Ever since, his brother had been stalking about the house sporting a low slung tool-belt as if it somehow made him the 'man' in his epic gay relationship with an angel. Sam really wished there was someone around with whom he could share such observations and commiserate.

He sighed, examining his handiwork and deciding it would do for now. Running a hand through his hair, he glanced around the room, trying to figure out which problem to tackle next. Before he could make a decision, however, his phone vibrated in his pocket, ticklish against his hipbone. He fished it out and flipped it open, finding a text from an unrecognised number.

It read: 'Sorry I didn't let you know I was taking off. Had to stretch my wings sharpish. You know how it is. Went to Vegas. I'll bring you back something pretty next time I stop by. xo'

It was the first word from Gabriel in over three days.

Sam stared at the message incredulously, reading it over a second time. He was pretty sure he'd just been blown off. By text. Affronted, he couldn't help but marvel that Gabriel had the sheer audacity to end whatever weird, tentative, nonexistent... thing they'd had by text.

He got halfway through typing out a reply that told the archangel exactly where he could go shove his 'something pretty', before belatedly realising he wasn't actually a woman scorned, no matter what Gabriel's dismissive tone implied.

After almost a full minute of indecision, he ended up shoving his phone back into his pocket without sending anything in return. If Gabriel wanted to play it like that, well fine. Sam could play too. After all, he knew by now that nothing could infuriate the archangel more than being thoroughly ignored.

For the next two hours he received increasingly frequent texts from the same unknown number, each one detailing some minor adventure in Vegas. After the seventh (which informed him that cheating at cards was indeed a lot easier with powers) he gave in and saved the number under Gabriel's name, but still didn't send out a reply.

After the eleventh, Dean asked short-temperedly who the hell was texting him so often.

Sam hesitated.

Immediately, his brother scowled and pointed a screwdriver at him authoritatively. "Tell Gabriel that if he's going to be enough of a dick to ditch you like that, he can damn well leave you alone altogether."

"Dean..." For an utterly surreal moment, Sam felt all of twelve years old again, mortified and irritated, insisting to his brother that he was big enough to take care of himself, thanks. Dean had always been overprotective, but that it was happening now, over Gabriel, was maybe the most traumatising moment of Sam's life.

He shook it off and hurriedly made his excuses to leave, feeling Dean's disapproving stare on him all the way out of the room. It was good timing, at least, as on the way back upstairs his phone buzzed yet again. Frustrated, he dragged it out flipped it open.

'Met a showgirl called Samantha,' Gabriel's text read this time. 'Kinda reminded me of you. All big green eyes and a beauty spot freckle. Even let me call her Sammy. xoxo'

He narrowed his eyes at the message, irrationally incensed. His plan to refuse all contact momentarily forgotten, he typed out with jerky movements, 'Nice of her. Personally, I always hated anyone calling me that.'

He hit send and enjoyed a moment of spiteful satisfaction.

...And alright, yes, fine – there was maybe a small chance Dean was right when he said Sam could be passive aggressive on occasion.

Gabriel frowned down at his phone. Well, he supposed, at least that had been the best reaction he'd received so far.

Though mostly because it was the only reaction so far...

Sam should have remembered that the archangel made getting what he wanted into an art form. Now that he'd successfully provoked Sam into first contact, it was as if he simply wasn't willing to go on being ignored.

The next day, in true trickster fashion, Gabriel made good on his offhand promise to gift Sam with something pretty by depositing a Las Vegan white tiger in Bobby's living room. ("Cat!" Dean had yelled in stunned fright, upon discovering the thing. "Really big cat!") Gabriel himself hadn't shown, although Sam had no doubt whatsoever that he was laughing himself silly over the whole debacle, wherever he was.

So, while Bobby despaired for the state of ridiculous chaos his life had become lately, Castiel took it upon himself to return Gabriel's 'present' to where it had come from. Sam had never before thought he'd have to witness their resident angel trying unsuccessfully to sneak up on a confused and singularly unimpressed adult tiger. It was one for the scrapbook, if nothing else.

'What?' Gabriel's protest of innocence read when Sam called him on it. 'I honestly thought you liked animals!'

After returning the tiger to its rightful owners, Castiel reappeared in the living room to find Sam stretched out on the couch, his phone resting on his stomach and vibrating intermittently with incoming messages. The angel drifted closer, gesturing at the device.

"If you wish Gabriel to stop contacting you, why are you–"

"I tried putting it on silent," Sam interrupted him, sounding resigned. "Gabriel has powers again, remember. He made it play Build Me Up Buttercup until I willingly set it back to something audible." He continued to stare at the ceiling for a moment or two, and then added with wry respect, "And you should have seen what happened when I actually tried to turn it off..."

Castiel refrained from asking. Instead, as Sam reluctantly levered himself up into a sitting position, he moved to join the human on the couch, perching himself awkwardly. Sam eyed him sidelong.

"...I did not expect Gabriel to depart as he did," Castiel admitted at last, somewhat hesitantly. Approaching conversations with Sam, he'd learned, was comparatively a lot easier than with Dean, but it was still a process fraught with difficulties.

Sam snorted. "Why not? It's what he does, isn't it?"

"How do you mean?"

"You said it yourself. He runs from anything like responsibility or... or commitment. Shouldn't have expected it to be any different now."

Castiel frowned, surprised to feel a little surge of defensiveness on behalf of his absent brother. "You dismiss him too easily. Perhaps you were unaware, but Gabriel has never once taken his attention from you and Dean since the moment your true destinies became apparent, through all the years of your lives. He is hardly a stranger to committed causes."

Sam looked away, flustered, and Castiel continued.

"Gabriel, as far as he is able, runs from pain. And with that in mind – did something happen between you?"

"No," Sam said, too quickly, watching Castiel with a cagey expression.

Oddly enough, the angel remained unconvinced.

Before he could say as much, however, Sam's phone buzzed again. Sighing, he picked it up and read whatever new message it displayed. A smile tugged unwillingly at his mouth, but he made no comment and didn't share with Castiel the source of his amusement.

The angel regarded him gently. "He misses you."

Sam blinked. "Sorry?"

"Gabriel. He misses you, I imagine." His gaze drifted to the loose stuffing that spilled from one of the many new gashes in the couch, inflicted by the tiger before its departure. "Admittedly, he sometimes has... difficulty in communicating such sentiments."

Sam huffed laughter despite himself. "Yeah, no kidding." Then, sobering, he added, "Look. Nothing's stopping him from coming back, so..." He trailed off with a shrug.

Castiel just tipped his head. "Does he have reason to?"

The human flinched, and didn't answer.

Not as far away as Sam might imagine, Gabriel snapped his fingers and conjured up a peach daiquiri, idly wondering what his next move was going to be.

Dean was having a stressful day. His little brother was being stalked by an archangel with a psychotic sense of humour, and his own angel troubles didn't bear mentioning. The house was still blown to pieces; this morning he'd walked in on a tiger, for fuck's sake; and an hour ago Crowley had successfully abused his already frayed nerves so badly he'd turned and hurled a paint roller at the demon's head. His whole life, frankly, was rapidly becoming a circus.

Sam was on his way to bed when Dean finally cornered him. "Dude, what the hell? I warned you! Didn't I warn you about messing with a trickster?"

His brother let out a long-suffering breath. "I'm sorry, okay?" He started up the stairs, muttering over his shoulder. "It's not like I expected him to pullsomething like this. Believe it or not, I don't harbour some secret wish to see you get eaten by a Vegas star attraction..."

Dean followed him stubbornly. "What the fuck happened with the two of you? I can't even tell if this is him being mad at you, or his version of an apology!"

"Neither can I, really..." Sam admitted, frowning a little as he reached the landing.

"Well fix it, Sammy," Dean snapped, and opened the door to their room.

They both immediately stopped dead on the threshold, staring. All over the place were M&M's. Not bags of them, as one might expect, but a wild scatter of bright candy that looked as if it had been arranged by being dropped from a great height – except for the small fact that the mess was confined solely and pointedly to Sam's side of the room, as though an invisible barrier contained it.

Dean turned slowly towards him, looking thoroughly nonplussed. "You seriously couldn't just make a normal friend, could you...?"

Sam Winchester was swiftly becoming his obsession.

This wasn't a problem in and of itself. After all, it wasn't like Gabriel had ever done anything by halves. Moderation, he'd come to learn, was like a foreign language, in that you generally had to learn that shit while you were young. And Gabriel really hadn't.

No, what actually bothered him was that he couldn't quite get a grip on the nature of that obsession. In all honesty, he, too, was unable to quite decide if his actions were done as some kind of passive aggressive revenge for Sam's rejection, or in sheepish apology for his own hasty exit. He was simply reacting blindly; so ruled by fickle emotion he might as well still be human. It had infected him, like a contagion, and he wasn't completely certain there was a cure.

He sighed in exasperation, stretching himself more fully across the uncomfortable bed. Honestly, all those texts he'd sent to Sam had really made Vegas sound fun. So much so that Gabriel kind of wished he was actually there, and not hiding out in an unoccupied motel room about a mile out of Sioux Falls. Least then he could be having a good time while he was busy angsting...

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