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Fic: Tiger Changing Its Stripes 3/3

Part 2

“You’ve been pretty low-key,” Dean said. “We had no idea you were hanging around until you came through the door and threw Sam into the wall.”

Gabriel changed the contents of the bottle of beer in Dean’s hand to something non-alcoholic. He wanted the guy functional in a few hours. “I promised Dad,” he said. “Nothing fatal and nothing that will draw attention. Slipped up a couple of times early on, but I caught ‘em before they made it too far.”

“Like?” Dean looked interested in the conversation for the first time since Castiel and Sam had left to gather supplies. Some of the things they would need worked better when not altered into existence by an archangel, and if he left right now someone might notice. Gabriel had no doubt that one of Raphael’s lackies was following their little brother, and while he could no doubt handle whoever it was he had no intention of announcing his presence just yet.

“This asshole almost hit Joan with his car speeding through a parking lot, so I turned his Corvette into a Pinto while he was still in it, in front of ten of his buddies from the frat house.” Gabriel smiled fondly; the look on the guy’s face had been priceless. He’d been forced to change memories and paperwork later to keep people from digging too deeply, but it had all been worthwhile just to teach that Jason punk a lesson.

Dean looked a little uncomfortable at the idea, probably because he was picturing the same thing happening to his own car. “Huh. Any others?”

Gabriel quickly passed over one; he really didn’t feel like talking about the guy on campus who had been drugging and raping his classmates. The scumbag had been dropped into a prison movie with a rap sheet that named him as a child molester, which Gabriel thought had been a perfect case of just desserts. That one had come within a hairs breadth of turning deadly and Gabriel had realized that he still needed to pull back. That move was Loki all the way, and the river of shit that would pour down if someone noticed was not to be believed. “I reversed all the plastic surgery for some high-maintenance beauty queen,” he offered up, which was both true and funny as hell. “She just woke up one morning to find her old nose in place and about one hundred extra pounds on her ass.” That one had also been a little too much Loki, but he’d gotten away with it and started to play down his urges a little, trying to find satisfaction in the sneakier tricks.

Dean snorted out a laugh and set his beer down on the scarred table. “That right there? That’s up there with the slow-dancing alien,” he said.

“I’ve got a reputation to uphold,” Gabriel said, his eyes sparking with mischief. “And sometimes you’ve got to blow your own horn when no one else will.”

There was an odd noise from Dean. “Speaking of that, we ran across a rumor about the horn of truth. Any idea where that is now?”

Gabriel slid him a sidelong glance. “Maybe.” He’d misplaced it sometime in the last millennium when he’d gotten the idea to hide out in with the pagans, but a few years ago it had shown up in a museum. He’d crafted a replacement out of some cheap diner silverware and hustled the real one away to someplace a little safer, where he could get to it without interference. “No one else can use it, so it isn’t something for anyone to worry about. If any one but me tries to play a little tune to jump-start things, it’ll just come out sounding like a cheap trumpet played by a middle-school kid.”

Dean chuckled. “Good to know. There’s enough of that crap floating around right now as it is.”

“If I ever run into the moron who thought it would be a good idea to spread Heaven’s weapons out on Earth for a handful of souls that they can’t really use, I’m going to dump him into a loop of Survivor. There’s a good reason they’ve been locked away in Heaven. Except for a few things, only the original owner can use them properly.”

“So they’re pretty much useless but dangerous down here?” Dean gave a bitter-sounding laugh. “Pretty much par for the course, then. Any chance one of them can help me get Sam’s soul out of hock?”

“No,” Gabriel said immediately. “Nothing in Heaven’s broom closet can get that cage open, Dean. After all the trouble getting Lucifer down there in the first place, Michael made sure of it.”

“Yeah, that figures.”

The man looked away and stood up, moving around the room restlessly. Gabriel watched him pace for a minute or so, picking up stray thoughts for the first time since he’d seen the Winchesters in the library. It was probably a sign of how upset he was at the moment; Dean had surprisingly strong shields and control when it came to those kinds of things. “After we get Joan safe and settled and I’ve sufficiently kicked Raphael’s ass, I’ll see about getting Sam’s soul out of the cage,” Gabriel offered. He’d been considering it even before Joan had gone missing and he’d gone straight into full-blown panic.

“Yeah?” Dean looked more weary and bitter than overjoyed at the news. “And what do you want in return? Pretty sure my soul is below market value at this point.”

“You’d be surprised,” Gabriel told him. “I don’t want your soul. I don’t want anything beyond the unparalleled happiness it will give me to stop seeing that Sam action figure walk around like he’s the real thing. Besides, I like Sam. He doesn’t deserve eternity locked up with Michael and Lucifer. I’m not sure even those two deserve it.”

Castiel reappeared in the room with his usual flurry of disturbed air, ending the conversation abruptly. Gabriel needed to work with him on showmanship. “How was Jerusalem?”

“Dry and hot.” Castiel set the jug of holy oil down on the table. “Has Sam returned from his mission?”

“You beat him back,” Dean told him. “But probably only barely. He should be back any second.”

The Diet Coke version of Sam showed up a couple of minutes later carrying a couple of plastic bags full of supplies. They probably wouldn’t have much time to get things together when they got back home, so Sam had gone for the non-essentials that would become essential: spray paint, salt, gunpowder, food, water. Gabriel wanted them to dig into some defensible point for the foreseeable future once they had Joan.

Once they were all together, Gabriel pulled his sword from its hiding place and began checking it over. It didn’t technically need it, since the swords never needed cleaned and would never rust, but he hadn’t used it since the failed battle with Lucifer and wanted the reassurance. “So, basic plan: I’ll pop in and distract the idiot once I’ve scouted the place out. You two lay a few traps, wait for a good opportunity and grab Joan and head for the hills. Lock her down with every kind of protection you can get. Castiel covers that retreat and then comes back to the fight.” Gabriel looked up from his examination of the sword in his hand to see skeptical expressions on Winchester faces. “What? Mike and Lucy aren’t the only ones who know how to fight.” Dean raised his eyebrows and gestured for him to get on with it, and the archangel rolled his eyes and did so. “Wherever he’s stashed Joan, anybody who wanders by is going to see guys working on the sewer lines, so don’t worry about being sneaky.”

“Get in, get out, get gone,” the Sam-thing said, and Gabriel grimaced at the idea of agreeing with him but nodded.

“Don’t get killed, don’t get her killed, don’t get me killed. And last but not least, can we all try not to kill any of my brothers who happen to show up?” There was a flinch from Castiel. “Raphael is the only archangel left in Heaven. It’s habit and tradition that has most of them following the jackass.” He tucked the sword away. “Grab your dicks, boys. I’m taking us home.”

Gabriel slipped through the tapestry of the multiverse and into the reality that had become home. Castiel was next to him, making sure that the Winchesters made it through unscathed. That was another one of those things he needed to work on with Castiel in his copious amounts of free time. He was willing to bet the other angel hadn’t spent much time moving through the multiverse.

Once everyone was accounted for, the archangel closed his eyes and concentrated on Joan. He started with her enthusiasm for her classes, her strong sense of right and wrong, and the way she tried to help people whenever she could. Next he added a few more details: her sorrow when she’d heard about her friend Lucy, the way that she inhaled a good cup of coffee, her frequent (loud) discussions with Edmund Rivers, and a hundred tiny details that he had noticed while watching over her.

With that complete, all he had to do was concentrate until the connection was made. When her oddly calm emotions increased in strength, Gabriel smiled. “Gotcha.”

He was gone in that instant, Castiel following with the humans in his wake, and standing right outside the building in question by the time they caught up.

They were smack-dab in the middle of a ghost town, which made things a little easier. Raphael had apparently fallen victim to a fit of irony and set up shop inside a weather-beaten church with a half-missing roof. The place was quiet in a way that made Gabriel’s borrowed skin itch, the silence sinking deep into the earth. Other than the pulse of his brother’s grace inside the building and the warm steady light of Joan’s soul, nothing else remained living, not even plant life. The ground here was poisoned and he wondered how Raphael could stand to be here for as long as he had.

He hadn’t told Dean everything about this whole situation. Hell, he hadn’t even told the guy ten percent of what this all meant. Joan was opaque to psychics and angels, a little self-defense measure that Father had put into place to protect his chosen ones. The only way to get through the security wall was a time-consuming period of connection. Gabriel had strung his out over several days, spending hours of uninterrupted time with the girl while they studied or hung out or went to class when they first met. Raphael would be trying for a more concentrated approach, which lacked finesse and would probably add a degree of difficulty in cracking through her mind. The only real shortcut would be to kill her, but his brother would have to be absolutely certain that Father was dead before he’d ever risk such a thing.

Once the traps for a pursuing archangel were set (Gabriel made sure to double-check their location, unwilling to risk the humiliation of being trapped again), Zombie Sam took up a position next to the door. Somewhere along the way the two of them had decided that Dean would take the lead in approaching Joan, which Gabriel approved. Despite Dean’s history and reputation, he trusted the older brother not to make the mistake of putting the moves on the girl.

“I’ll be back in just a sec, just going to pop in and find out what’s going on in there.” Gabriel slipped around the atoms that made up the structure of the old church, moving just slightly out of phase with time. It wouldn’t fool Raphael for long, but he just wanted a quick peek before he busted in like Superman to save the day.

His 0.3 second peek turned into something a little longer when he was brought to a screeching halt. Raphael was sitting in a pew with his head bowed. Joan was sitting next to him, a sympathetic expression on her face that Gabriel remembered from when her friend Grace’s mother was in the hospital. She had one small hand resting on the archangel’s shoulder, the effect made somewhat comical by the sheer size of Raphael’s new vessel.

“It’s going to be ok,” she said, her voice soothing. “Knowing him, he’s already forgiven you for everything. Dads do that kind of thing.”

“But if He was alive all this time, why did he abandon us?”

She made a soft sound of disagreement. “God didn’t abandon you. You were strong enough to stand on your own. But you need to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, what He wants you to do. Not just what someone else tells you should be done.”

“It just hurt so much,” Raphael said. A less charitable person would have called it whining, but since Raphael’s current vessel weighed in at around 270 and stood around 6’6” Gabriel doubted that anyone would have made that claim to his face. “I just wanted it to end.”

“But that wasn’t the way,” Joan said, her voice a little more stern now. “You started something that wasn’t supposed to happen, something you knew He wouldn’t like. Actions have consequences.” She leaned over and gave him an awkward hug. “You should probably apologize.”

Gabriel chose that moment to step in. There was a good possibility that his brother would take her words the wrong way and he definitely wanted this progress to be kept. Besides, that hug was just kind of wrong and he didn’t want to see anything like that again. He moved back into the stream of time with a thought.

To Joan he probably simply appeared, leaning back against the aging pulpit, and she started in surprise when she saw him. Raphael looked up at him with that unbelievably solemn face. He’d always taken himself a little too seriously. “Gabriel,” he intoned, and the archangel in question refrained from rolling his eyes.

“She’s right, you know,” he said. “Father’s a little upset with all of us right now.”

“I can understand why He would be upset with you,” Raphael said stiffly. “You’ve spent the last two thousand years wallowing around with the pagans. Are you finally ready to come home?”

“Nope.” Gabriel remained where he was, despite the temptation to move. He hated staying still like this, but Raphael looked and sounded like he was at the end of his rope. One false move might set off a reaction that neither one of them really wanted. “If I go back now, I’m going to be right back where I started. You want me on your side. Castiel wants me to fight on his. And if you’ll remember, little brother, that was exactly why I left Heaven in the first place.”

“You chose to fight for Michael. We all believed you to be dead.”

“I was dead. Father brought me back, just like he brought back Castiel. And for the record, I didn’t fight for Michael. If that ass had been there, I’d probably have fought him too. I was fighting for the humans.” Raphael made a dismissive noise, which Gabriel personally thought was a little gutsy in that kind of proximity to Joan. “Father gave them the planet, whether you like it or not.”

“You mean you sided with the Winchesters,” Raphael said shrewdly.

Gabriel shrugged. It was true enough, to a certain degree. “They grow on you. Like a tree fungus or an embarrassing skin condition.”

“An apt comparison.” Raphael’s borrowed face mirrored his true one buried underneath, and Gabriel could tell that neither one was amused.

“You’re not still sore about Dean trapping you in a circle of holy fire, are you? Come on, it happens to the best of us.”

“You mean they trapped you as well.”

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Joan interrupted, rolling her eyes and standing up. She’d been following the conversation like she was watching a tennis match, clearly lost without the overruling context. “And I’m really starting to get hungry. Is there any way we can wrap this up so I can get something to eat?” She thought about it for a second and added, “And coffee and a shower, please.”

Gabriel couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped. This whole mess was so very like her from start to finish. “Sure, kiddo. I think we’re almost done.”

There was a huff of exasperation. “Good. You have a lot of explaining to do, buddy. Your cover is officially blown.”

He glanced at Raphael, who shrugged the shoulders of his true form. The vessel remained impressively stoic. “I assumed she knew.”

“Well, I do now. Now hug and make up so we can get going.” She folded her arms across her chest, one foot tapping slightly on the floor.

Raphael looked at Gabriel for a long moment. “I am not hugging you.”

“Likewise,” Gabriel told him. “Does this mean you’re going to back off on the civil war? I’d be more likely to come home every once in a while if it wasn’t a pitched battle every single time.” He missed home. Earth and the humans were great, but sometimes the desire for the warmth and light of Heaven and the constant presence of his brothers was almost painful. If Joan’s little talk to Raphael got the whole thing settled, he would feel welcome there again.

“She has given me much to think about. I will seek revelation and see what comes.” He was gone with an overly dramatic fluttering of wings, but Gabriel wasn’t exactly someone who could throw stones about that particular tendency and he let it slide.

Joan turned to him with a questioning look on her face. “Is he always like that?”

“Pretty much. And aside from me, Raphael is the most laid-back of all the archangels. Trust me, you don’t want to try anything like this with Michael.” He took a closer look at Joan. “Are you all right?” Raphael would have wanted her whole, but it had been a very long time since he’d willingly mingled with humans and he wasn’t as aware of how very fragile they could be.

She shrugged. “Hungry. Tired. Cold. I want a shower in the worst way, but I want food and coffee more. And you are not getting out of your explanation.”

“Duly noted. I just need to pick up a few people I had waiting outside.”

“The Archangel Gabriel needs backup?”

“When my brothers fight, there tends to be a lot of destruction. I wasn’t sure what kind of mood Raph was in, but if it came down to a fight I wanted you out of harms way.” He snapped his fingers and Team Moron dropped into the room.

They handled the change well, which was to be expected. Gabriel had spent enough time over the years watching the Winchesters that he knew they tended to land on their feet. Castiel, of course, simply studied his new surroundings (now Raphael-free!) with the kind of irritating calm that made Gabriel consider dropping him with the Leverage crew for a time. A week spent with Parker would do wonders for that stick up his baby brother’s ass.

“Why does your backup include that creepy guy from the coffee shop?” Joan asked. She’d taken an instinctive step away from the three new occupants and toward Gabriel.

“Yeah, that’s on my list of things to take care of,” he muttered. “The guy with the coat is Castiel, the tall replicant is Sam, and the one who looks balanced in comparison to the other two is Dean.”

“Yeah, nice to meet all of you. Can we go get pizza now?”

One snap of his fingers sent the Winchesters back to their motel room. Castiel inclined his head and disappeared with the unspoken promise that they would be speaking later. Gabriel wasn’t quite sure if he was looking forward to it or dreading it.

That left Joan and Gabriel alone in the decrepit building. “You want to head back to your room?”

She winced and made a face, still a little shaky but recovering very quickly. “I go back there right now and that paper will be staring me in the face.”

“My place it is.”

Gabriel didn’t have an apartment of his own, exactly. That would have been completely unnecessary for a being who didn’t sleep, didn’t need to eat, didn’t require clothing and who could rearrange time and space. With a thought he opened a fold in space and built a comfortable facsimile of an apartment. He relocated a deep-dish pizza with pretty much everything from a place in downtown Chicago and a latte from an area Starbucks. He thought about it for a second and added a bathroom to his construction, grabbing a pair of loose, comfortable pants and a sweatshirt from Joan’s closet. He used the last half-second to move the girl from Montana to Chicago and his little shelter.

It took her a few seconds to adjust to the change in location, and she frowned when she caught sight of the neat pile of soft cotton. “It’s a little creepy that you can do that,” she told him, grabbing the clothing and hurrying into the bathroom. “Don’t eat my pizza,” she called from behind the door, just as the water started running.

Gabriel took a moment to stretch his wings out and settle his mind. Dealing with his brothers was always way too stressful. He would have tried sending Raphael on a vacation to Grand Cayman Island centuries ago, but that stick in the mud would probably just stand on the beach with his shoes on and angst over how Father loved the humans more. The story got old after a while. Sighing, he rearranged his vessel until it once again looked like Gabriel Parker, mild-mannered law student. Joan would probably deal with Gabriel Parker better than Loki.

What little nervousness she’d show before her shower was gone when she got out. She was surprisingly calm as she curled up on the comfortable couch that Gabriel had borrowed, pizza and coffee in hand. That particular dentist had it coming, to his mind, and deserved the rickety curb-side reject Gabriel had left in its place. “So, you’re the archangel Gabriel,” she said, taking a huge bite of pizza.

“The one and only.”

“And God made you my babysitter.”

“No one makes an archangel do anything they don’t want to do. Father asked, I agreed. And I’m more bodyguard than babysitter, with a side order of companion.”

“And you also pretended to be a pagan god.”

“I hated watching my brothers fight,” Gabriel said. “All anyone wanted to do anymore was plan on killing Lucifer. So I left. Hung out with pagans, who were at least expected to be dysfunctional. Nobody blinked over there when one family member wanted to kill another one.”

“Raphael thought you were dead.”

“That’s because I was. God brought me back.”

She shivered and set aside her pizza, clutching the coffee cup closer. “How did you die?”

Shit. He really, really didn’t want to get into this. He’d been frantically trying to repress those memories since about 30 seconds after he was resurrected. “Lucifer killed me.”

“So Raphael was right? The Devil was really out trying to end the world?”

“He tried. The Winchesters stopped him, believe it or not. That’s part of the reason why Sam is all Dexter Morgan now; his soul is still trapped with Michael and Lucifer.”

Joan looked at him, curious and slightly scheming. “Is there something you can do about that?”

“I’m planning on it. I just wanted to make sure you were settled before I went down and faced my brothers.”

“I’m probably going to fall asleep on this couch,” she admitted. She looked at him with worry in her eyes. “Are you going to be all right? You’re seriously talking about going to Hell.”

“Sure. Getting in is easy. The worst part of it all will probably be having to be around my brothers while they argue. I’ll be back out before you know and then I’ll tell you all about the time I put a pair of Tribbles in the air ducts at Harvard.”

“So you’re still playing tricks on people?”

“Just little ones, and only to people who are way too uptight.” He wasn’t telling her about Ryan Beck or Justin Anton, the asshole who’d been planning on drugging and raping her. “I once made a frat boy slow-dance with an alien.”

She giggled, an edge of hysteria to it that was quickly controlled. “What else?”

He searched his mind for something that she would find funny and not repulsive or disturbing. “I changed a tiger’s stripes into spots and left him where a zoologist would find it. I changed them back just as he was announcing his great discovery.”

“Why did you do that?” There was a yawn and Gabriel pulled a blanket from someplace convenient and draped it over her. The White House would never miss it.

“Guy had this habit of stealing other people’s work.” He’d also created carnivorous bunnies with sharp, pointy teeth that were waiting for the douchebag in his office when the failed press conference had ended in complete and total humiliation, but that was another story that Joan would never hear.

“So most of what you do is kind of avenging angel stuff?”

“That’s one way to look at it,” Gabriel agreed readily. Mostly it was about him getting bored and wanting to play. Pompous jerks were much more fun to mess with than the other side of the fence.

Joan was fading fast, the stress of the last twenty-four hours coming down like a heavy stage curtain. “You’ll make sure nothing happens while I’m asleep?”

“You can count on it.” He was going to call in Castiel as a bedside guardian once she was deeply asleep, but Castiel could handle anything up to and including Lucifer popping up in his little safe place. He would feel it through the bond if she had any nightmares or woke up suddenly.

There was a faint smile before her eyes slid closed. Gabriel waited for a few minutes until she was in a little more deeply before summoning Castiel.

His younger brother showed up with his usual sudden fluttering of wings. “Gabriel.”

“She’s asleep,” he said. “Can you watch over her for a few hours?”

“Where are you going?”

“To Hell,” he said, voice chipper. “I think its about time someone got Sam Winchester out of that cage.”

“Should you be doing anything that might damage the cage? If Lucifer is able to free himself from the cage again -,”

“The cage will hold Michael and Lucifer. That’s not a problem; it was designed to hold archangels up until the door gets opened. It’s not meant for human souls. They’re a little more flexible. I should be able to tease Sam’s soul out of there without any problem.”

“And if there is a problem?”

“I’ll start screaming for you, Castiel. I won’t be shy about it.”


Hell wasn’t especially hard to get into for an archangel. It was incredibly unpleasant, of course, but since it was Hell that was to be expected. Technically speaking, for Gabriel walking into Hell was pretty much the same as flying to Albuquerque or moving through the tapestry with added sulfur and brimstone. Getting back out with his prize would probably prove to be a little more difficult, but he was ready for a challenge. Most of the beings who roamed free in the Pit weren’t willing to confront an archangel on a mission, but one with a potential liability might be a little too tempting for the demon crowd.

He reached the cage with little confrontation, which disappointed him on one level. The wrongness of Hell made him itch. It clashed with everything that Heaven stood for at its purest and most basic, shaped by Lucifer to twist the humans that Father loved into something grotesque. Just being here made Gabriel want to lay waste to it all.

There was no way of staying out of sight here like there was on Earth. Gabriel went to the edges of the cage without hesitation, taking in everything. He could hear Michael and Lucifer arguing, the same argument he’d been having since before Lucifer got locked up. ‘Father loved you best, Father loved the humans best, you’re a monster, you’re just Daddy’s little soldier, blah blah blah.’ Gabriel had seen more intelligent discussions that one time he hung around the elementary school waiting for the appropriate moment to have the cast of Sesame Street crush him to death.

Sam Winchester’s soul was huddled in the corner away from the two bickering archangels. There was surprisingly little damage done to it. Michael and Lucifer were still too busy fighting with each other to turn on the other occupant of the cage. Angels were immortal and tended to take the long view of things, after all, and two hundred years of an argument wasn’t really all that unusual. Nothing anyone else wanted to hear, of course, but pretty typical fare as far as his brothers went.

Gabriel approached the soul with caution. He had no desire to get caught up in this argument between his brothers. He’d come back again sometime and see if their time in God’s time-out box had done either one of them any good, but right now he was here for Sam Winchester. “Sam?”

There was no sign of movement from the soul, which had stayed with something approximating its human form. Gabriel sighed and reached out metaphysical fingers, reaching the edges of the soul that slipped through the containment. “Sam, buddy, amigo, we really need to get going. I’ve got places to be.”

Sam had twitched when Gabriel came in contact with the soul and then curled up to a tighter ball. “Not real,” he murmured, pulling away from the walls.

“Sam! We do not have time for this right now. Get over here so I can get you out or I will trap you in that freaking Japanese game show for a year. I am not kidding around here, Sam. Do you want to stay in here with my idiot brothers?”

“No,” Sam said. He didn’t move closer to the wall and didn’t say anything further.

It was at this stage that his brothers broke off their bickering and turned in his direction. Gabriel cursed under his breath. This was a complication he didn’t want. “Hey, guys. Having fun?”

“Gabriel,” Michael said angrily. “What are you doing here? Still rolling around with the pagan filth?”

“Not recently, thanks for asking. You two working things out down here? Need a therapist to help with your issues?”

“That won’t be necessary,” Lucifer said. “You look well, considering the last time we saw each other.”

“You mean when you stabbed me in the heart? Yeah, Dad took care of that. You two aren’t looking that great.”

“What do you expect?” Michael glared at Lucifer. “I’m forced to be close to this monster and abomination who housed him. It’s beneath me.”

“I would expect no less from Father’s perfect little soldier. Why would you ever do something to help the little monkeys? It’s not like you care about them.”

“You don’t actually hate them either. You just hate that Father likes them.”

Gabriel turned back to the soul shivering away from the overwhelming brightness of the two archangels. Those two had never seen anyone other than each other. It was probably the only reason that Sam’s soul was intact. Sam was beneath Michael’s notice and Lucifer couldn’t see anyone but Michael when the two of them were together.

“Sam, aren’t you bored with this yet?” Gabriel tried his best to look pleading. “There’s an Autobot wandering around topside that looks like you, and we need to get you in there. Dean’s going nuts.”

“He promised he was going to Lisa.”

That was interesting information. Gabriel had been wondering where Dean had gone for that missing year. “Well he’s back in the game now. So let’s get you back to where you belong, huh? No one deserves these two for eternity.”

Sam finally looked up at Gabriel and nodded. That was all the agreement that Gabriel needed.

It wasn’t that hard to pull Sam’s soul out of the cage. The hard part was keeping Michael and Lucifer distracted so that they wouldn’t grab Sam to keep him from leaving. Lucifer tended to be especially petty about things like that. Unfortunately, he needed Sam’s cooperation because he wasn’t able to reach all the way into the cage, just brush the edges, and that meant that Sam was aware of everything that was happening. Within the cage he was actually somewhat insulated from the effects of Hell by the burning light of two archangels. But as soon as Gabriel started prying him loose from his prison, Hell started its corrosion of the mostly pure soul.

Once it was free of the cage, he urged it into a dreamless sleep and tucked it in close to his presence, where it would be sheltered. After one last check to make sure that no fragment of Sam’s soul remained behind (nothing left but two archangels arguing like an old married couple), Gabriel hurried to leave Hell behind.

Gabriel checked on Joan and Castiel, relieved to find his charge still sleeping peacefully and Castiel still standing guard in Gabriel’s little carved-out niche of security. There would undoubtedly be nightmares in her near future; despite Joan’s flippant attitude afterwards she’d been terrified by the abduction and her time with the least subtle of Gabriel’s brothers. He was just hoping to postpone the matter until after this whole thing with the Winchesters was cleared up.

While he was there he pulled a large Tupperware container from a nearby house and made it soul-tight before sealing Sam inside. Souls tended to disperse on Earth, heading toward their eventual destination if they weren’t properly contained. Castiel watched the process with interest, commenting that he’d never seen this done before.

“It doesn’t happen very often on our end of things,” Gabriel told him, making sure the lid was tight. Even though he’d promised Raphael that he would come home soon, he didn’t want it to make that little day trip quite yet, especially to track down Sam Winchester’s soul yet again. “Demons do it sometimes when they need the energy to power a ritual, but returning a soul from Heaven isn’t that difficult for angels. I’ve only needed to do this twice before this, for a couple of guys that Hell really wanted that we were planning on bringing back.” He shook the container lightly. “Back then I just shoved them into clay pots, though.”

“His soul seems intact,” Castiel said, studying it through the translucent plastic. “I would have expected Lucifer to cause further damage.”

“Not with Michael around to distract him.” Gabriel did one last check on Joan. “I’m going to put this where it belongs. Don’t watch any porn around her, please. I’m pretty sure she’s had enough trauma from angels for the past few days.”

Castiel nodded stiffly and Gabriel held back a sigh. Dean had been corrupting his baby brother again. Didn’t the man know that it was Gabriel’s job to do that?

The Winchesters were still in their dump of a motel, though Sam Lite looked like he was being kept there forcibly. Dean was sharpening knives and churning over some thought or another; his mind was surprisingly a little too complex to get the deeper thoughts and most of the time Gabriel had to settle with surface impressions and his similarities to Michael, which had occasionally gotten the archangel into trouble. “I come bearing gifts,” he said. “Well, a gift, technically, but its one you really want.”

There was a long moment of overwhelming, awkward silence. “What?”

“Megatron over there still doesn’t want it back,” Dean ground out.

“OK, you do realize that you’re basically a pile of rotting meat sooner rather than later?”

“I’d rather be dead than a gibbering nutcase,” the bad remake said, voice irritated.

“Where did you morons get this idea that I’d do such a half-assed job of putting Sam’s soul back together?”

“Cas said that Michael and Lucifer were using him like a cat toy.”

“Yeah, well Castiel doesn’t know Michael and Lucifer like I do. They’re still too busy having that same stupid argument they’ve been having for centuries to torture your brothers’ soul, idiot. And even if they had been messing with Sam, I would never consider putting a damaged soul back into its meatsuit without healing it first. Hello, archangel Gabriel here? I would never have made the offer if I thought Sam couldn’t take it.” He snapped his fingers and a sturdy straight-back chair appeared. “You, sit. I’ve got places to be that don’t involve hanging out with you two clowns. Dean, get a belt for your brother, would you? This is probably going to hurt and it would mildly inconvenience me if you two had to be moved because someone called the cops about all the screaming.”

Dean got his brother’s shell situated in the chair, mouth pinched in some undefined emotion that Gabriel didn’t feel like deciphering. He liked the Winchesters, but right now he just wanted to put Sam’s soul back in place and send them on their way. “Hold him down,” Gabriel said, opening up the container and picking up the softly glowing soul with one hand.

The entire process didn’t take nearly as long as pulling Sam’s soul out of Hell in the first place. The body and the soul were meant to be together until the body could no longer function, and Sam’s soul slotted into place without a hiccup. “That should do it,” Gabriel said. “I’d lay low for a little while until he gets used to it again. Call me if there are any problems.”

“Call you how?” Dean asked, hefting the limp body of his brother onto the bed. “What, you want me to pray?”

Gabriel rolled his eyes and held up a cell phone. “Or you could try my cell, dumbass. I put my number in your cell. But do us both a favor and don’t call for a while. I’ve had enough of you two bozos to last a while.”

“Thanks, Gabriel,” Dean said. There was an honest sincerity there that Gabriel knew was rare for the hunter, and he seemed to be at a rare loss for words.

“Don’t mention it. Really. I’ve got a reputation, after all.”

“Not a problem.” He looked from Gabriel to his unconscious brother. “By the way, was there any sign of our brother Adam down there?”

“None. You could see if Castiel can spot him in Heaven. Seriously, don’t call. I’ve got shit to do and you two are not on my list.” And with that parting shot, Gabriel was gone. He was needed elsewhere, and it was nice to be needed again. Strange that it had taken him so long to figure that out.


“You spend too much time overthinking it,” Gabriel told Castiel. “Father asking you to do something is a good thing. Trust me.”

“I might trust you more if you weren’t constantly complaining about how difficult it can be to watch over Joan.”

“They’re not always this difficult,” Gabriel protested. “Sometimes they listen to you before they run off and do exactly what they want.”

“You are less than comforting.”

“What do you want from me? I’m the Messenger, not a therapist. Hey, there we go.” The spirit moved past them, following the tiny blond woman that Father had just recruited as one of His Knights. She was due to meet with Joan soon, something Father had planned so that they would both be in the right place at the right time. On this particular occasion, however, the human spirit was the real concern. He’d been the subject of more than a few prayers from the faithful and Castiel had been tasked with retrieving the soul and placing it in a freshly resurrected body. The man was going to be laying some important groundwork for far future battles, and Castiel needed to spend some time watching over him, acting as a guide. It was somewhat similar to his first encounters with Dean, but the younger angel had learned quite a bit since then.

“How should I approach him?”

“I can’t believe I’m the one saying this, but be straight with him. He’s been lied to most of his life. If we’d all been a little more honest with Sam Winchester, things might have turned out a little differently.” Gabriel smiled, a little mischievously. “The time for playing with him will come later. Don’t worry, little brother. You can handle Harry Dresden.”

Author's Note


Mar. 16th, 2014 08:27 pm (UTC)
Not sure how I missed this one for so long!! Love it.