Sam tried to brush the dust off his jacket, as he followed his brother into a diner. The place was mostly vacant, save a waitress pouring coffee for an old man perched at the bar. An old jukebox was humming nearby, but the song was to faint to pick out. The entire restaurant was silent and peaceful – and Dean's gruff voice was ruining the soft atmosphere.
“Damn ghosts,” the older brother growled, practically storming up to the counter, “Why can't those damn things just cross over like everybody else, huh? Why do they have to stick around and give us hell? Stupid son of a bitch. I think I broke my knuckle again.”
Sam tried his best to give an apologetic smile to the waitress, who had glanced toward Dean with a look of confused shock. Dean's was grumbling loud enough to echo around the room, and draw her attention. Sam casually picked up a menu to hover it over his face; embarrassed by his brother's lack of consideration for others. Sam knew Dean needed to bicker sometimes, but did he have to do it in public?
“Can I – get you boys anything?” the waitress timidly asked.
Dean opened his mouth to answer, but his phone interrupted him; ringing in his pocket. As he reached into his jacket to retrieve it, Sam took over the conversation. He lowered the menu to meet eyes with the woman. Sam knew that his and Dean's presence was a bit intimidating – what with all the dirt and specks of blood on their clothes – so, he tried being polite to counter their ruthless appearance.
“Uh, yeah, can we have a couple of burgers to go, please?” Sam replied, making his voice as friendly as possible.
“Pie,” Dean spat toward Sam, before answering the phone and stepping away.
Sam resisted the urge to roll his eyes at his brother's demanding tone. Dean wasn't helping with the whole 'friendly' thing Sam was trying to portray.
“And pie,” Sam added sweetly, “Any kind you have. To go.”
“Sure,” the waitress nodded, giving Sam a smile.
As soon as the woman headed for the kitchen, Sam took the time to glare at Dean. The guy had no right to act so rude, just because he'd gotten hurt on a case. But Sam's glare slowly shifted into a quizzical look, as he watched his brother talk on the phone. Dean was loitering near the vacant window booths, and seemed like he was having trouble understanding the person he was speaking to. Sammy stepped closer to his brother to figure out why he looked so confused.
“Whoa, whoa, hold on,” Dean said, his eyes narrowing in disbelief, “Say that again... Are you sure?... No, I believe you, Jerry. I just don't think it's the same guy... Hello?... Who is he asking for?... Sam? Why Sam?... Yeah, he's here... hold on.”
Sam blinked, as Dean held the phone between them and pressed the speaker button. From what he'd heard, Sam assumed that Jerry – a hunter that lived in Montana – was on the line.
“Hello?” Sam said out loud, glancing back to make sure they weren't disturbing the old man at the counter.
“Sam,” Jerry's voice was clear, “There's a fella here asking for you.”
Sam gulped a little, unsure of how to take this statement. Who could possibly be looking for him? Only him, and not Dean?
“Who?” Sam said, giving Dean an equal look of confusion.
“Well,” Jerry sighed, “when I asked him what his name was, he said, 'ask your mom, she was screaming it last night.”
Dean and Sam raised eyebrows at each other. Sam was racking his brain, trying to figure out who had the gall to say something so rude to hunter like Jerry. Jerry could be easily mistaken for a cage fighter; bulky and muscular enough to take on a group monsters all by himself – which he had done, on occasion. Whoever this guy was, obviously had a pretty staggering amount of self confidence...
“And you didn't kill him for saying that?” Dean asked, astounded.
“Normally, I would have. But, uh, this guy looks pitiful. I think somebody's already beat him up,” Jerry replied, sounding genuinely sympathetic, “Plus, he's pretty tiny. I could probably kill him with one punch. And there's no fun in that.”
After Jerry said this, there was a rustle on the line. Dean and Sam blinked toward each other, while they listened to the commotion. It sounded like someone was struggling to get the phone out of Jerry's hands. After the muffled noises, a new voice came over the phone – and the hairs on the back of Sam's neck stood on end, when he heard it.
“Don't flatter yourself, chubby,” Gabriel – the trickster, the archangel – said, sounding like he was talking toward Jerry, “You're lucky I'm stuck in this hairless-ape suit right now. Otherwise, I would have already smote your ass... Whoa, whoa, hey! I was only kidding! Put your fists down, King Kong! Easy!”
“Gabriel?” Dean said, before Sam could find his voice, “What the hell do you want?”
“Oh no, not you,” Gabriel grumbled through the phone, “I don't want to talk to the short, mouthy one. Lemme talk to the big one. Where's the kid? Is Sammy-boy there? Hellooo? Gabe to moose. Come in, moose.”
“Uh,” Sam stuttered, confused by the eagerness in the archangel's tone, “Y – yeah. I'm here.”
Sam had no idea why the trickster, of all people, wanted to talk to him. And, frankly, he didn't want to speak to Gabriel; especially after what he'd done to Dean at the Mystery Spot. Dean seemed just as uncomfortable with it; brooding toward the phone, as they both listened to hear what Gabriel had to say. A breath of relief came over the line, after Sam's statement.
“Ah, Tarzan. It sounds like you've been working out. Have you been working out?” Gabriel mentioned, “How's that flowing mane of yours, huh? You still got a full head of hair? I always did like those lengthy locks on you. And that plaid. You still wear flannel?”
“What do you want, Gabriel?” Sam asked flatly, unamused by the trickster's over-the-top flattery.
“Listen, kiddo,” Gabriel sighed, “You know I'm not one to crawl around with my tail between my legs and beg... but, um... I – I really need your help, this time.”
Sam and Dean shared another glance of surprise. Gabriel was genuinely asking them for help? Sam could already tell that Dean was wanting to hang up the phone and ignore the trickster altogether. And, after what Gabriel had done to him, Dean had every right to be unwilling to help the archangel. But – whether it was from his lifetime of watching creatures suffer, or knowing what it was like to need help and not receive it – Sam didn't feel the same chagrin that Dean did. On the contrary, Sam actually felt bad for him.
“Oh, you need us now?” Dean said into the phone, his eyes narrowed, “So, the murderer needs help from his victims. Well, isn't that a steaming pile of karma.”
“Geez, are you ever going to let go of that stupid Mystery Spot thing?” Gabriel said, exasperated, “Look, guys, this is serious! I'm in deep shit. And if you don't help me, all the other angels will be in deep shit, too. And you know what that means, don't you, Dean? That's right. Cassie will be in deep shit, just like the rest of us.”
Dean's eyes flashed wide. Sam – and apparently Gabriel, too, – knew that Dean had a soft spot for Cas. Dean never helped angels, unless Cas was involved somehow. Sam could understand why Dean favored him, of course; what with the whole rescue from hell, and the countless times Cas appeared at Dean's beckon call. The trickster probably knew all of this, too, and was using it to gain leverage. And it was working. Sam could see Dean's stern expression crumbling, the longer he stared at the phone.
“... So, will you help me? For Cas's sake?” Gabriel prompted.
Dean gulped hard, like he was trying to swallow acid.
“You'd better not be lying to us,” he snapped, “Fly your ass over here.”
There was a nervous chuckle from the trickster. Sam and Dean both gave the phone a strange look. What was so funny about flying to their location?
“Well, see, that's part of the problem. I – I can't fly. I, um... I can't do much of anything. I'm kind of... I'm kind of human,” Gabriel said lowly, sounding embarrassed.
Sam blinked, feeling strange. Gabriel was human? But how? Skepticism was trying to take root in Sam's chest. Logic warned him that this might be another trick... But Sam's compassionate heart far outweighed his logistic mind. Acting on instinct and emotion, Sam took the phone from Dean's hand.
“Let me talk to Jerry,” the younger brother requested.
“You've got it, sweetheart,” Gabriel chimed.
Sam's stomach tensed with queasiness. Why the hell did Gabriel have to call him 'sweetheart?' Jerry's voice eventually came back on the line, distracting Sam from the weird feeling in his gut.
“What do you want me to do with this guy?” Jerry asked.
“We're about two hours out from your place, Jerry,” Sam said, glancing at his watch, “Can you keep him until we get there?”
“Uhh... I'd rather drop him off at the bus station in town. I'm trying to track down a vampire, and his loud mouth keeps giving me away.”
Sam sighed. He knew it would probably be safer for Gabriel to stay with another person, given that he was now a helpless little human that could easily get hurt. But Sam couldn't deny that Gabriel did have a loud mouth, and would annoy the shit out of Jerry until he finally killed him...
“That's fine,” Sam replied, “Can you just leave him there with a knife or something? Tell him that Dean and I will be there as soon as we can.”
“Will do, Sam,” Jerry replied, “Take care.”
“Dad bless you, moose!” Gabriel's faint voice chorused in the background.
After hearing the line go dead, Sam pressed the 'end' button on the phone and turned around. He met Dean's stare, and could see honest confusion in the guy's face. A flicker of discomfort lit up Sam's insides. Dean was probably surprised by Sam ripping the phone from him and taking charge, all of the sudden. And, to be honest, Sam was surprised, too. He didn't know why he felt so strongly about helping Gabriel, either. Maybe it was just because Sam remembered how helpless Cas had been when he became human for a while, and it bugged him to think that Gabriel could be even more helpless. Besides, Gabriel said it effected all the angels, didn't he?
“Really, Sam? You want to help the trickster?” Dean grumbled, taking his phone back.
“He might be telling the truth, Dean. Cas might be at risk, too,” Sam said, using the trickster's strategy of persuading Dean, “Look, worse case scenario, you get to kill him yourself.”
Dean seemed to ponder this theory for a moment, glancing around with a thoughtful look on his face, before rolling his eyes and huffing a breath.
“Fine. But if we get screwed over again, it's on you, Sam,” he uttered, storming for the exit, “Now, get the pie, and come on.”
Sam took a breath, as he walked over to the counter. The waitress was already standing there, holding a brown bag. Sam gave her a gentle smile, as he exchanged his money for the food; making sure to give her a generous tip. He gave the old man a friendly nod, too, before stepping lightly toward the diner door, heading for Montana. And Gabriel.
Sam and Dean didn't say much, on the way to the bus station to meet Gabriel. During the ride there, Sam was trying to brace himself for anything. He was fully aware that this could all just be a trick that Gabriel had devised; some sick way of using the Winchesters' empathy to lure them into a trap. Sam's heart and mind were still at war, each trying to win him over. 'You're gonna get stuck in another time loop, idiot,' the voice in his head told him, 'then you're gonna wish you hadn't wasted two hours of your life driving here.'
But, even though he knew this was a bad idea, Sam couldn't shake off his gut feeling. His intuition felt strong about this. Gabriel had sounded so genuine on the phone; using his witty charm and cheesy flattery to convince them of his plight. Well, he did his best to convince Sam, anyway. It seemed like he didn't even want to speak to Dean. What was it about Sam that Gabriel favored? Did he like Sam better because he was the nicer of the two Winchesters? Was it because Sam was more trustworthy? Kinder? More sympathetic? Whatever the case, Sam couldn't help but feel secretly pleased. It was nice to be doted on and given ridiculous nicknames. Even if they were from the trickster...
The bus station came into view a couple miles into town. It was pouring the rain, and Sam could barely see through the windshield as the wipers streaked back and forth. The closer the Impala came to the bus stop, the clearer the view became. Dean parked the car near the entrance, and the two brothers dashed out into the rain. They raced toward the building to avoid getting wet, but their feet drew to a halt when they heard a faint whistle. Sam bumped into Dean, both their eyes darting toward the right. Gabriel was huddled underneath a bus stop canopy; soaking wet. Sam and Dean glanced at each other before dashing under the safety of the canopy, to get out of the rain.
Once close enough to him, Sam took the time to appraise Gabriel's condition. The archangel was wearing a jacket that was clearly too big for him, and his clothes and shaggy blonde hair were dripping wet. Sam was surprised to see that the trickster was holding a small dog inside his jacket; a white and brown Jack Russel Terrier, who was also wet and shivering. While the dog's presence confused Sam, it was nothing compared to how he felt when he saw Gabriel's face. The poor guy looked like he'd come out second best in a bar fight or something; black eye, bloody nose, cut lip, swollen cheek. Never, in all the time Sam had known him, had Gabriel ever appeared so wounded. The guy must have really been telling the truth about being human, because an angel never looked this bad...
As soon as Sam and Dean stepped under the canopy with him, a awkward smile spread across Gabriel's injured lips. His golden eyes beamed brightly up at Sam, and as he curled the little dog tighter against his chest.
“You two are literally a sight for sore eyes,” he mused, talking over the sound of the heavy rain, “I tell ya, my dad must still be alive and kicking somewhere. 'Cause miracles do happen.”
“What the hell happened to you?” Sam blurted, shocked by the archangel's injuries.
“Yeah. Do you mind telling us why we wasted an entire tank of gasoline to come and see your sorry ass?” Dean added, obviously not concerned with Gabriel's state of being.
Sam watched the cute little dog nuzzle his nose deeper inside Gabriel's over-sized jacket, as the trickster readied his words. The look of happiness on the trickster's broken face dimmed.
“Okay. Here's the scoop,” Gabriel began, taking a breath, “A few hours ago, I was wandering around, smiting assholes and minding my own business, when my dipshit brother, Raphael – who I assumed was dead, by the way – comes waltzing up to me with an angel blade -”
“Wait. Stop. Hold up,” Dean interrupted, “Raphael? You mean the teenage mutant ninja angel? Cas and I left his ass inside a ring of holy fire. How did he get out?”
“How am I supposed to know? Maybe one of his henchmen blew out the fire,” Gabriel shrugged, still shivering, “Anyways, like I was saying, Riff-Raph shows up with an angel blade, rambling something about needing my grace. I told him to get out of my face before I snapped my fingers and turned him into a Christmas ornament, because I could tell he didn't have any grace of his own -”
“Raphael didn't have his grace?” Sam interrupted, eyebrows curving together.
“No. He was pretty much as human as I am now,” Gabriel answered, his blackened eyes meeting Sam's.
“Then, what happened to his mojo?” Dean asked.
“What, do you think we sat down and cried on each others' shoulders, Oprah?” Gabriel spat, squinting briefly toward Dean, “I don't know why he didn't have any juice. All I know is that he slit my throat with that stupid angel blade, and took all my grace, okay? He's got my grace! My brother is basically strolling around the world wearing my underwear. Do you see how sick that is?!”
Sam and Dean grimaced at each other. That did sound pretty wrong. But Sam was still confused.
“Did he say why he needed it?” he asked, searching Gabriel's injured expression for an honest answer.
“Well, he didn't exactly spell it out, but I've got a theory,” the trickster sighed, “I think he took it to get the ball rolling again, on the whole 'end of the world' party.”
Chills raced across Sam's skin. The apocalypse? Raphael was trying to get the apocalypse started again?! But Dean and Sam had finally put all that shit to bed. Now, some rouge archangel was out there trying to make it happen again? To raise Lucifer again? But, why?
“Now, now. Don't go all pale on me, Sasquatch,” Gabriel said with a chattering jaw, as he reached out to pat Sam's arm, “I'm not gonna let Raph pop open the box. That's why I came to you guys. 'Cause you're the ones who stopped it before, am I right?”
“Let me get this straight,” Dean said, still speaking over the sound of the rain, “Raphael stole your grace, turned you into a whiny little sack of flesh, and left to go restart the freakin' apocalypse?”
“In a nutshell? Yeah,” Gabriel said, his hand slipping from Sam's arm, “but, uh, that's not all.”
Dean huffed loudly, rolling his eyes.
“Of course it's not,” he grumbled, “Tell us.”
Gabriel's throat visibly quivered, as he swallowed. His golden eyes were glancing around with discomfort.
“Raphie, he's... he's trying to kill me,” Gabriel said, almost inaudible under the sound of heavy rain, “He beat the shit out of me after he took my grace, hoping to end me right then and there. That's why I look like a Fight Club reject. See, if I die, he gets to keep my grace. Permanently. As long as I'm alive, my grace is always going to fight him. So, he's just gonna keep taking shots at me until I'm dead.”
Sam watched Gabriel's amber eyes flicker to meet his own. A hint of embarrassment rose on the trickster's cheeks, underneath his bruises, when he looked away again. Gabriel hugged his dog a little tighter, tucking both arms around him. Sam could tell that the trickster was genuinely humiliated by the state his was in. Human. Wounded. Hunted. The pitiful sight of a grace-less archangel clinging to a wet puppy in the rain was so heartbreaking to Sam. Why did he feel the urge to wrap Gabriel into a hug, all of the sudden?
“We'll hide you.”
The words left Sam's mouth before he knew it. Both Gabriel and Dean's eyes flashed toward Sam. Once again, the younger Winchester was surprised by his own statement. He was offering to help the same guy that had tortured him in a time loop and stuck him in TV hell. And the strangest part, was that he actually wanted to help the trickster. A small part of Sam was still hesitant to believe that this whole story could be true... But, dammit, Gabriel looked so sad; standing in the rain, with nothing but wet clothes and a shivering dog. How could Sam ever turn away from something so forlorn?
“Uh, excuse me?” Dean said, his eyes wide, “We're going to what?”
Sam blinked back toward Gabriel, watching his golden eyes fill with hopefulness.
“Look at him, Dean,” Sam said, gesturing to Gabriel's blackened eye and bloody nose, “He's never going to make it without us.”
Although an awkward smile graced Gabriel's face, Dean made a noise that sounded similar to a grunt of disapproval. The older brother grabbed Sam's arm, before giving Gabriel a fierce look.
“Don't move, shorty,” Dean warned.
Before Sam could argue, Dean was pulling him away from the trickster. They didn't go very far; just to the edge of the canopy, where the rain was falling in sheets against the roof. Dean huddled close to Sam in order to talk lower, though Sam was sure that Gabriel could probably still hear him.
“What the hell is the matter with you, Sam?!” Dean hissed, “Do you realize that you're talking about the same asshole that stuck our asses in TV land? He forced you to do a herpes commercial, Sammy. A herpes commercial!”
“I know, Dean,” Sam grumbled, not wanting to remember it, “but we need to put that shit behind us. Unless you want Michael and Lucifer to try and wear us to the prom, again, I think we need to help Gabriel get his grace back. And if Raphael keeps trying to kill him, then we need to hide him.”
Dean's sigh was long, heavy, and full of rage. He closed his eyes briefly, as if he was trying to block out all of the thoughts of murdering Gabriel. In the meantime, Sam glanced back to see the trickster a few feet away. Gabriel was gently scratching the top of his dog's head; reaching down into his jacket to pet the little guy. Another ache of pity washed over Sam. Where did Gabriel get that dog, anyway? Sam never knew he had a pet...
“Son of a bitch,” Dean growled next to Sam, “Alright, fine. Where are we gonna stash this bastard?”
“Well, we're pretty close to Rufus's cabin,” Sam suggested.
Dean took a breath and forced a nod, before turning back around. Gabriel's head rose to greet them, as the brothers walked back toward him.
“So, what's the verdict, gentlemen? Am I worthy enough of your kindness?” he asked.
“No, you're not,” Dean spat, “but I guess until we sort out all this apocalyptic shit, we've got no choice. You're coming with us.”
The smile that lit up Gabriel's lips made Sam's stomach tighten with delight. The trickster peered into his jacket, looking down at his dog.
“You hear that, Dickie? We've been adopted!” he rejoiced.
“Yeah, yeah. Don't get all sentimental about it, asshole. You still owe us a hundred Tuesdays,” Dean said, before turning to his brother, “Sammy, get him in the car. I'm gonna call Jerry and make sure he's not using the cabin.”
Sam nodded, as Dean handed him the keys. The older brother lingered behind to get out his cell phone, as the younger brother motioned for the trickster to follow him. The two of them left Dean – both already soaked from head to toe – and ran to the Impala, where Sam quickly unlocked the backdoor for Gabriel. Once the trickster was safe inside, Sam rounded the hood to climb into the front passenger seat, shaking the wet hair out of his face as he went. For a moment, after they were both inside, the only sound in the car was heavy breathing. Sam turned sideways in the seat to get a better look at the archangel behind him, who was carefully unzipping his jacket.
“Geez, that's s – some cold r – rain,” Gabriel mentioned, his jaw chattering like crazy, “Has rain always b – been that cold?”
Sam felt bad for Gabriel. Angels probably never knew what it was like to be cold and wet. This was probably the first time Gabriel had actually experienced rain for what it was; harsh and unforgiving.
“You get used to it,” Sam said, trying to comfort him.
After brushing his wet hair back, Sam looked over the seat to watch the Jack Russel Terrier poke his head out from the top of Gabriel's jacket. His little brown nose sniffed the air, as he shivered against the trickster's chest. A strange feeling came over Sam again, as his eyes wandered over both the dog and the man holding him. It had been a long time, since Sam had been this close to a dog...
“What, um... what did you say his name was?” Sam almost whispered against the silence.
He was trying to be friendly, and break the weird tension that Dean had created among them. Luckily, Gabriel's sliced lips formed another smile at Sam's question. The trickster carefully unzipped the rest of his jacket, before gently scooping the dog into his hands. He held the little guy out toward Sam, letting the dog's tiny body wiggle around and his tail wag in the air. Sam met Gabriel's eyes, making sure it was okay, before taking the dog from him. As soon as the Jack Russel Terrier was in Sam's lap, he climbed up to lick the man's face. Sam chuckled a bit, nodding away from the incessant tongue.
“His name is Dickie,” Gabriel answered.
“Dickie?” Sam repeated, after which the dog barked, “Why did you name him that?”
“Because all he ever thinks about is his own dick,” Gabriel said, “Male, female, dog, cat, horse, human, fire hydrant, his own tail... He'll hump anything.”
After hearing this, Sam assumed that the dog would try to hump him in some way; jump into the floor board and latch onto his leg or something. But he didn't. Instead, Dickie curled up into a ball in Sam's lap. The little dog was still shivering, and trying to cling to Sam's body heat. Sam smiled, as he reached down and ran his hand over Dickie's wet fur. Poor little guy. He needed a nice fire place to lay in front of.
“Hey, um, Sammy-boy?”
Sam looked up at the sound of his own name. Gabriel had leaned forward to cross his arms on the front seat and rest his bruised chin on them. He was looking up at Sam through darkened, swollen eyelids; his expression soft and meaningful. The longer Sam stared at him, the more Sam felt bad about his injuries. They really needed to call Cas and see if he could heal the poor guy.
“Yeah?” Sam prompted.
“I don't know why you're doing this for me, and I have no idea how in the world you convinced your brother to help, but I, um... You know, I'm... uh, what I'm trying to say is -”
“You're welcome,” Sam interrupted.
He knew that it was too difficult for the trickster to say 'thank you.' The words probably weren't in Gabriel's vocabulary, and Sam could understand why. After millenniums of having God-like strength, Gabriel was used to never having to say 'thank you' to anyone. But now that he was human, he was forced to deal with the humbleness of having nothing. And it secretly amused Sam to watch Gabriel trying to be grateful.
The driver's side door opened suddenly, briefly filling the car with the sound of pouring rain. Dean dashed inside, dripping wet. As soon as he sat down and shut the door, he took a deep breath – and his nose scrunched in repulsion.
“Ugh. This whole damn car smells like wet dog,” he grumbled, tossing Sam a look of annoyance, “I hope you're happy, Sam.”
Sam shifted Dickie closer to his abdomen, as he stole another glance toward the backseat. Gabriel had scooted back and zipped his jacket back up; his golden eyes watching the rain slide down the window next to him, as he felt along his own battered face. Though Sam didn't say it out loud, the answer to Dean's question was 'yes.' He didn't exactly know why, but right now – as he sat in the Impala, next to his brother, with a dog in his arms, and the trickster in the backseat – Sam was very happy.