For Love is Strong as Death

Chapter 2

Dean had once sheepishly confessed that he'd taken Castiel to a brothel, of all places, and that he'd tried to get the angel drunk while there, buying generous quantities of any alcohol Cas had deigned to drink – only to find it had done jack shit to his sobriety. Sam might have considered the tale an exaggeration, that weird habit Dean had of bitching enthusiastically about angelic freakishness while secretly sort of being impressed by it – he had, after all, once seen for himself Castiel stumbling into their motel room hung over and still drunk. But he also remembered Jo and Ellen laughing incredulously as they'd sworn up and down that Cas had done a full line of shots without batting an eyelid. Sam had eventually hypothesised that angels could become intoxicated, on occasion, but only if and when they applied some serious effort to the task.

So it was... jarring, to say the least, to see Castiel hunched dejectedly into his trenchcoat after only one beer. His forearms were braced heavily on the bar and he was staring, unblinking and uninterested, at the rows of coloured bottles which lined the opposite wall. Apparently Castiel was a morose drunk, and he was doing nothing at all to improve Sam's already dark mood. For the most part, he was doing his best to ignore the sulking presence on his left, but that only left him with Gabriel on the other side, and oddly enough the hedonistic archangel-cum-pagan-god was not proving to be the fabulous company his infamous reputation might suggest. He was currently scowling into a fruity red concoction of a drink that even Sam had been embarrassed to purchase.

They'd stopped in the first town they'd come to, at the first bar they'd driven past, and Sam had spent two hours hustling cash at the pool tables while the angels watched like two abandoned puppies. He'd felt Dean's absence like a missing limb, constantly out of joint without the scripted banter that usually accompanied their cons, and he'd played only long enough to earn enough money for a motel room and then given in to the temptation to take the edge off things with a beer or three before they left. So what if he was self-medicating; he figured alcohol had to be healthier than demon blood. Besides, he was newly back from the dead, again, without his brother or the slightest trace of familiarity, except for two dependant angels who unnerved him at the best of times. Someone could just damn well cut him some slack, thank you very much.

But as if to purposely thwart him, the archangel suddenly slapped a hand down on the bar. "Oh, for the love of– I think I need to pee again! How do you humans have time to do anything but constantly pass disgustingbodily fluids?"

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose hard, eyes squeezed shut. "Gabriel, please... please shut up." It had been bad enough the first time, when he'd actually had to graphically explain to an otherworldly celestial being exactly how the human digestive system worked, and the etiquette involved in dealing with it.

"This is ridiculous," was the only response he got, hissed directly into ear, because apparently Castiel wasn't the only angel with no clear concept of personal space. "I did everything He could have wanted. I was a card carrying member of your stupid Team Free Will! Alright, fine, so I was a little late to the game, but I mean..." He broke off for a moment, taking an angry sip of his sparkly drink. "Even slumming it down here I was still doing my job, you know? Unlike some I could mention. Is it too much to ask for – oh I don't know – maybe a little dignity in death?"

Sam glared at him, annoyed. "You really think that little of us that you'd rather be dead than human?"

"Oh, don't go getting your panties in a twist. All the angels you've met, you want to lecture me on superiority? No, Sammy boy, I happen to like your strange little race – for the most part. But that doesn't mean I want to be one of you." He looked down at his own hand in disgust, like he could actually see the humanity on him.

Sam opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by a dismissive snort from Castiel. He and Gabriel blinked, unaccustomed to any third party input to the almost constant sniping that had been going on since they'd all woken up that morning. They both looked at him expectantly.

Castiel seemed surprised by their sudden attention, halfway through lifting another beer to his mouth.

"Got something to say, bro?"

"No, Gabriel. Please feel free to continue discussing your deep aversion to being human, despite spending the past several centuries, perhaps millennia, obsessively submerging yourself in their cultures and lifestyles, pretending to be one of them –"

"Woah, woah, wait up! I was pretending to be their god, not one of them!" Gabriel was visibly bristling, but it seemed there was something missing from his show of pique. Maybe it was that, usually, when he was at his archangel – or even trickster – best, Sam could half imagine power gathered in close around him, invisible wings held high above his head. Now, though, with Gabriel so startlingly human, he just looked ludicrously like a pissed off short guy holding a girly drink. It made Sam want to smirk a little, amused to see Gabriel shift his shoulders like he was trying to resettle ruffled feathers. "I'll have you know I'd make a terrible human, anyway, which is why I never tried to be one."

Castiel, as poker faced as ever but nowhere near as focused behind the eyes, shrugged distractedly. "You made a terrible angel, too, if it helps."

Sam immediately scoffed a sharp and inappropriate laugh into the back of his hand, too shocked to do anything else.

Gabriel just gaped, struck wordless for a rare moment. "...Excuse me? What's that supposed to mean? And also: mean!"

The younger angel took a drink while he considered his response. "After Lucifer and his elect departed Heaven, you were among the first angels to willingly Fall to Earth. You refused to take up the considerable responsibilities of an archangel while our home was in chaos. Instead you've spent the time since then impersonating not only humans and common tricksters, but the pagan god Loki himself – a title to which you have no right."

"Uhm, Cas...?" Sam interjected hesitantly, fully aware that Gabriel's fingers were twitching around his glass like they wanted nothing more than to snap a thunderbolt into existence that would leave Castiel nothing but a smear on the barstool. "I think it's time to call it a night."

Gabriel, however, ignored his efforts at diplomacy. "Oh, well if that isn't just the pot calling the kettle Fallen!"

"I'm not familiar with that idiom–"

"It means you're a whinging little hypocrite, brother, because I distinctly remember you shucking your responsibilities, disobeying your orders, all on the word of a human. Dean Winchester said jump and you were already in the air before you could think to ask how high, right?"

"At least my defiance was not born of cowardice. You, Gabriel, were one of the greatest among us, and you chose to hide yourself away rather than do your duty, spend your time in self-indulgence and denial rather than–"

"Hey, I was still doing what I was supposed to, even as a trickster. Delivering justice and all that–"

"Your 'justice' was petty and out of proportion and mostly for your own entertainment. So yes, Gabriel, I personally believe you make a terrible angel. But it would seem you were never very far from human."

Gabriel jerked as if he'd been slapped, and Sam knew it really was time to intervene. What had been a vaguely amusing spat between siblings was quickly turning into Castiel going for his brother's throat, and Sam had no idea what had gotten into him. This wasn't Cas thoughtlessly referring to him as an abomination, this was active hostility.

He stood up, placing his larger frame between the two while he dug in his pockets for cash. "Okay, definitely time to go. Why don't we just–"

Gabriel leaned around him, expression deadly calm. "You are out of line, Castiel."

The other angel hitched a shoulder, also standing. "One way or another, Gabriel, you are no longer my superior." And then, without another word, he turned and headed for the door. Sam really hoped he was going to wait in the car for them and not just disappear melodramatically. That was all they needed to finish the night off nicely: driving round with the windows rolled down, calling for Castiel like he was a lost pet.

He cleared his throat awkwardly, banishing the mental image and chancing a look at Gabriel. The archangel was rigid in his seat, glaring at nothing in particular, and for a confusing moment Sam almost felt sorry for him.

"Look... Cas doesn't... He's just worried. I think he misses Dean." Sam could sympathise.

Gabriel, though, shot him an amber eyed look of fury. "I think he wants to fuck Dean," the archangel countered viciously. "And I think he's mad because you told him he couldn't go running into your brother's open arms. That doesn't give him the right to take it out on me."

Sam sighed and bowed his head in defeat as yet another angel stalked past him. Oh yeah. This was going to be awesome.

When they finally found a motel they could afford with what was left of the money, it turned out Gabriel didn't know how to sleep, to Sam's utter exasperated amazement. They were in a room with two queens, which Sam had generously surrendered to the angels while he took the couch, and Gabriel still hadn't mastered the trick by the time it had gone half one in the morning. He'd moved on to keeping Sam awake as well by speaking at random intervals, not even bothering to whisper.

"This is boring. You seriously just lie here doing nothing for eight whole hours every night? Why?"

"Shut up, you'll wake Cas." He rolled over, thumping a thin pillow in frustration. He'd caught sight of a newspaper in the lobby when they'd first checked in. It was early December, about four months after he'd died. He wondered if that meant he'd been in Hell for forty years, like Dean. He had no idea, remembered Stull literally as if it had happened yesterday. Probably lucky, all things considered.

"Hey Sammy?"

Four months that Dean would have been living with Lisa and Ben, making a life for himself. It'd be Christmas soon. He'd probably be getting them presents. Real presents, ones he'd actually paid more than a dollar at a gas station for. He wouldn't have to steal toys for Ben like he had for Sam. He'd–



"Oh, were you doing the sleeping thing? Sorry. Just wondering what the plan for tomorrow is."

"The plan is research," he answered shortly. Because he had two human angels on his hands, and the sooner he figured out how to give them back the power to disappear from his life, the better.

"Uh huh. And you really think it'll be as easy as surfing a few web pages, do you? Not a lot known about angels, kid, and there's even less known about resurrected suddenly human angels."

He sighed loudly. "I realise it's not going to be easy, Gabriel. Now just... try to go to sleep, please."

There was a brief bout of quiet, during which Sam lay listening to Castiel quietly snuffle into his pillow. It didn't last long.

"Alright, look. You know I'm the last person to sing his praises, but maybe now would be a good time to rethink your policy on involving your brother."

"What do you care if I talk to Dean?"

Gabriel rolled over restlessly, propped up on one elbow to peer at him in the darkness. "Because the brothers Winchester deal with this sort of thing every damn Tuesday, and forgive me for thinking we could use the help! Not like either you or Castiel are going to get your heads in the game until you see him, and I would very much like to have the use of my wings again some time this century!"

Sam rolled his eyes. He should have known the archangel was only being self-serving. "This has happened to Cas before. He says it's like needing your batteries recharged. It's temporary."

"And did he ever get his batteries recharged?"

Sam opened his mouth to snap a reply, and then stopped. He hadn't, had he? Cas had still been all but human when he'd followed them to Stull. He'd died human and been brought back the same way. "...Huh."

Gabriel's eyes narrowed and he flopped back down onto the mattress. "Great."

They considered this in silence for a while, and for the first time Sam wondered warily what he was going to do with them if this was permanent. He didn't even know what he was going to do with himself. Keep hunting was the instinctive answer, but taking Cas and Gabriel with him? Cas, at least, had done the human thing before, and Dean had made sure to show him the basics in defending himself – but Gabriel? Gabriel might once have been Heaven's greatest weapon, but currently he didn't even know how to handle the normal human needs of eating and sleeping. It was seriously tempting to just drop him off somewhere with someone who had the time and energy to teach him, but that seemed kind of jerky, and despite every awful thing he'd done to them as the trickster, Gabriel had been a sort of unofficial member of Team Free Will, and he had pretty much died for them. Teaching him dietary requirements and cures for insomnia was probably the least he could do.

So hunting was out, at least for the moment. Maybe after he'd trained them up a bit, given a few self-defence lessons, but not right now. What did that leave? He could take them to Bobby's. At the very least, the old hunter would just love having access to their combined encyclopaedic knowledge of anything and everything supernatural. But Bobby would also probably call Dean, no matter what promises Sam extracted from him, and even on the off chance he didn't, word would inevitably go round the other hunters who used Bobby as a contact and eventually get back to Dean. So no. Bobby's wasn't an option either.

"Psst, Sam!"

"Jesus Christ – what, Gabriel?"

"...No, seriously, we're just supposed to lie here?"

Sam threw his pillow at him.

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