Blank Pages: The Son Rises
“What now?” Sam winced as he asked it, Gabriel’s eyes falling on him with a look of exasperation.
“Do you even, remotely, think I have any more control over this than you do?” the archangel sighed, annoyed, “You agreed to this, Sam. And Kali made the spell. I have the least control over what happens next.” He narrowed his eyes and foldedhis arms before glaring across the expanse of Heaven, frozen in time in the midst of the Rebellion, “I guess we’ll just have to see, won’t we.”
The colors, grays and dark blues and whites of the storm and the angels inside it, blurred together, and when Sam looked again Gabriel was gone. He groaned, watching the colors of the world blend and merge before reforming, painting out a new picture of Heaven in pretty golden oranges of the setting sun. Time started again.
The Hunter’s eyes found Gabriel instantly, just yards away from him sitting in the higher branches of a young redwood. The Garden had regrown from how Sam had last seen it, ashes of plants and fire blazing across nothingness, the flowers had returned and the trees had grown anew, though their stature was half of what it had been before, he could see that clearly. Gabriel was lounging with his back against the trunk, feet dangling on either side of the branch he sat on, arms at his sides and his eyes half closed.
Sam jumped as someone passed right through him, and he put his hands to his chest and stomach at the eerie tingly feeling it caused. His eyes followed the new figure and he raised an eyebrow as he noted that it was Adam. Michael. The oldest archangel tilted his head back to gaze up into the tree, a frown crossing his features, “Gabriel, our Father has been calling you for hours.”
Gabriel snorted, closing his eyes fully, “So?”
Michael made an annoyed noise in the back of his throat, “So? Gabriel, he’s summoning you. Our Father.” Michael groaned when Gabriel began to hum, ignoring him. “I will come up there, Gabriel.”
“No you won’t,” Gabriel sang, pleased with himself.
The other growled, and extended his wings, a motion Gabriel didn’t notice until Michael had shot into the branches and grabbed the collar of the younger’s robes. Gabriel squealed in surprise, falling backwards off the branch with Michael on top of him as they crashed to the Garden floor together. It was then that Sam saw the scars across the eldest Archangel’s wings where Lucifer had ripped his feathers out in the war. Apparently, some wounds didn’t heal. Gabriel laughed as they hit the ground, the sound winded and wheezing, but a laugh all the same, and to Sam’s utter bewilderment, Michael laughed too.
The sound was melodious, real, and heartbreaking all at the same time. The birds in the trees above burst into the air as it rose and fell, and the wind whipped up as if the archangels had summoned it. Michael rolled off of his brother and sat up with huff as he caught his breath, Gabriel doing the same.
“So what’s the deal-io with Dad?” Gabriel asked, putting his hands behind him across the grass, fingers threading through the blades.
Michael rolled his eyes, “It’s your summons, Gabriel. Not mine. I suggest you answer them and find out for yourself.”
Sam blinked and the world twisted, and he found himself looking at the brothers again, though they were standing now, underneath the same tree. Gabriel looked tense, his feathers ruffled as they had not been only seconds before. It was one of the only ways Sam recognized the passage of time, and he realized he had not been privy to whatever conversation the archangel had had with God. He was kind of relieved, actually. After all the shit he and Dean had been put through because of the absent Father, he wasn’t sure he wanted to see him. Ever.
Gabriel was absolutely fuming, pacing around the base of the tree with his wings flared and his eyes narrowed. He moved until he was suddenly nose to nose with Michael, who didn’t seem the least bit alarmed by this, and growled, “Why does it have to be me who does this, Michael? Wouldn’t you be more suited, as the eldest, the closest to our Father?”
“I am not the Angel of Prophecy, the Messenger,” Michael said evenly, eyebrows raised in amusement. “That would be you, dear brother.”
“And do you remember what happened the last time?” Gabriel snorted. “John? If there was any messed up kid in this world, it was this one.” He shrugged, “And I’m pretty sure Zacharias was not his father. Not that he could tell.”
Michael groaned, putting his head in his hands, “Don’t remind me. Can you try not to mess up so terribly this time around? Father would not appreciate it if his Son-”
“That’s exactly it!” Gabriel waved his arms around, nearly smacking his sibling in the face, “He’s trusting me with the delivery of his Son, Michael. His Son.”
The older smiled, “He trusts you.”
Gabriel flailed, “Why? I’m the most irresponsible, air headed, lazy angel in the garrison! Why me?” Michael chuckled as he watched his brother’s panic.
“Maybe because you love humanity more than anyone else, Gabriel,” he murmured.
The younger paused, “What? But the whole garrison-”
“Tolerates and obeys our Father’s wishes. That is not love, Gabriel.” Michael closed his eyes as Gabriel stared at him in shock, “It is not the same as the love I hold for our Father, or for all my brothers. You however,” he opened his eyes again, meeting Gabriel’s gaze, “You spend much time on earth, among humanity. I’ve seen you, Gabriel, holding the newly born souls you reside over, helping the crippled with their crops and their seeds, and caring for the sick until Azrael comes for them to lead them on. Why should it not be you, who does all these things and more for our Father’s Son?”
Gabriel swallowed thickly, “I-”
This time when the world tilted, Sam knew instantly he wasn’t in Heaven anymore. His feet landed on an untidy dirt floor, and his eyes instantly went to the roof over his head, thatch and straw laced together. The place had a single room and a single bed, beside which a young woman was crouched, kneeling in prayer. She had long dark hair that was tied back out of her eyes, and her skin was tanned from either birth or from a lifetime of work out in the hot sun. Her eyes were closed as she murmured words Sam couldn’t hear until they suddenly snapped open in alarm.
A light bathed the room, the same white hot glow that Sam had only seen when he’d banished angels during the Almost-Apocalypse. The woman jerked back from the bed as the light descended from seemingly nowhere to hover before her, fading until it had revealed Gabriel, faint traces of the glow still glinting off the edges of his wings.
“Hail, one receiving grace,” Gabriel’s voice was unlike Sam had ever heard it, full of power and authority as it echoed around the tiny house, “the Lord is with you.” The archangel placed a hand upon the top of her head and she shivered at his words, “Blessed are you among women.” It was almost comical, to Sam, to hear such formal speech from him when he usually used his own odd mix of words and phrases from the twenty first century.
The woman trembled at the angel’s touch, awe and dread in her gaze, and Sam took in the sight of her bright blue eyes the same shade as he knew Castiel’s to be. Gabriel smiled soothingly at her, “Do not fear, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Sam inhaled, mesmerized. Mary, this was Mary, the chosen virgin to carry God’s child. “And behold!” Gabriel continued, raising the hand that was not resting on her head towards the roof, “You shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call him Jesus.” Mary opened her mouth, but Gabriel put a finger to her lips and silenced her, “He shall be great and be called the Son of the Highest. And the Lord shall give him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the House of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there shall be no end.”
Mary’s eyes watered, and she gazed up at the angel before her, “How shall this be, since I do not know a man?”
Gabriel nodded in understanding, though this was probably not new information to him, “The Holy Spirit shall come to you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you. Therefore, also that Holy One which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” She blinked at him, obviously confused, but he went on, “And behold, your cousin Elizabeth also conceived a son in her old age. And this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God, nothing shall be impossible.”
The archangel lowered his arms from his dramatic gesturing, and let out a long, loud sigh, to which Mary blinked at him, taken aback at the sound, “Oh good grief. Now that that’s finally over . . .” He held out his hand, “My name is Gabriel, Mary. And from here on out, I am you very own personal angel.”
Mary stared at him and Sam snorted into his hands, stifling a laugh. She smiled then, lips quirking as she laughed as, clasping the offered hand in both of hers, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Gabriel. And an honor.”
When Sam blinked, he found himself outside that same little house, if he could even call it that, with Gabriel at his side. The archangel didn’t look at him, but when he shifted their shoulders brushed. Gabriel crossed his arms and peered down the thin winding road outside of the house as though he was waiting for something, his stance tense. And just when Sam was starting to worry he’d missed something, he mary came careening come careening around the corner, the edges of her dress (it could have been robes, Sam didn’t really know what to call her attire) held up as she ran, practically leaping at the angel when she approached.
Gabriel huffed, catching her, “Whoa, you shouldn’t be running girly, you’re two months in.”
“Joseph proposed to me!” Mary all but squealed in delight, “We’re to be married on the morrow!”
“So soon?” Gabriel asked, astonished.
“Yes, I have told him about,” she lowered a hand to her stomach in the place of words, “And he doesn’t care. He wishes to meet you, Gabriel, to speak with you about raising the child.”
The angel squeezed her shoulders, “I apologize, but I can not just yet, Mary. Tell Joseph that he will see me the day God’s Son is born.”
Mary looked up at him with worried eyes, “What? Are you going somewhere?”
“No,” Gabriel soothed, “But the trials you must face soon are yours and your husband’s alone, I am forbidden to interfere. But I will watch over you, have faith.” She nodded, eyes glistening, and he pulled her into a tight hug, “Have faith, Mary.”
Sam watched in stunned silence, shocked at the affection Gabriel was showing towards her, though he’d protested against the job in the first place. It seemed that Michael was right, he really was the angel who cared the most for humanity. The thought made Sam feel sick and proud at the same time. He was mortified that all the other angels didn’t feel even anything remotely like this towards the people of earth, and he was proud that Gabriel was different, and that he dared to defy what his brothers believed.
When the ground slipped out from under him this time, Sam found himself zipping through a series of memories that whipped by so fast he had no time to dwell on them. A long journey away from Mary’s home when her neighbors deduced that her child was not Joseph’s, a rushing river crossed in struggles and breaths, shivers and tears. Towns and cities passed through where no one spared the pair a glance, sweeping desserts where there was no water to be had for days and days, each drop given to Mary while Joseph went without. All the while Sam watched as her belly swelled with the Son of God.
And the world slowed again as they approached an inn on the outskirts of a small city, pleading for a room that would not be given.
Sam held his breath as Joseph begged, hands clasped together, “Please, my wife is heavy with child and-”
The innkeeper gazed at the man with cold eyes, “We’re full, as is every inn in town this time of year, go elsewhere, I have nothing for you, beggar.”
“We are not, beggars!” Joseph hissed, and Sam marveled at his pluck, “Please, I am begging you, we just need a place to stay for the night, a with a roof over our heads out of the wind and cold.”
The innkeeper studied him, a frown on his face, before he gestured over to a ramshackle barn, “You may use the stables, if you must. Go, be among the livestock and horses where you belong.”
Joseph held back a snarl at the insult, but nodded and let out a curt, “Thank you,” before he steered Mary towards the barn, shoulders tense with anger. She laid a hand on his arm, murmuring something to him, and he relaxed ever so slightly at her touch.
Sam hung back on the edges of the stables, absently running his hands over the horses only to have his fingers pass right through them. Maybe he could only touch things he’d seen before, in is time. Things that still existed in his time, like Gabriel. Or maybe it was only Gabriel he could come in contact with because it was Gabriel he’d entered this chain of memories for. He watched, passive, as Mary went into labor and Joseph scrambled around to create a makeshift crib for the baby. He waited, wondering when Gabriel would keep his promise to return. And he wished he could help every time that Mary screamed.
After a few hours of this, Sam couldn’t take it anymore. Thus far, it was the longest memory he’d been a part of, and besides that it worried him immensely that Gabriel had yet to show. He walked outside into the chilled night air as he silently prayed for the archangel to appear.
Suddenly, from the inn, a woman emerged, wrapping a shawl around her shoulders and tilting her head back towards the sky as she did so. She gasped, throwing a hand in the air and pointing. Sam followed her extended finger, narrowing his eyes in surprise. A star, brighter than any he’d ever seen glinted right above the stables, high in the sky. Sam laughed softly to himself at the sight, shaking his head. At least he knew what the archangel was doing now, even if in the long run being the star that shone the way for the coming wise men was the least important event of the night. The Hunter snorted and wandered back into the stables.
As soon as he stepped inside, Joseph’s eyes went to him, halting him in his tracks. “Oh, thank the Lord. Please, could you lend me a hand here?” Sam blinked, stunned. How was it that Joseph could see him now, when he hadn’t been able to for hours and hours just awhile ago. He nodded and paced over to allow Mary grab to his hand and tug him down, wincing at how hard she crushed his fingers. “Uh-”
“Just stay there and make sure her breathing stays even,” Joseph directed as be moved to crouch between her legs with a cloth and a basin of water, “Thank you.”
It was then that Sam realized he didn’t like the miracle of life anymore. With Mary cutting off the circulation in his fingers, the amount of screaming, the blood and birthing fluid on Joseph’s hands, it was all very traumatizing and gross. He never wanted to see it again.
And then she stopped screaming, making room for the wails of the child that Joseph held aloft with eyes tearing up. Holy . . . Sam decided not to curse, even in his mind, not here at the birth of God’s Son. He decided he liked the miracle of life again.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” a voice whispered near his ear, and Sam started so bad he fell over, Mary’s hand slipping away from his.
“G-Gabriel!” he screeched, “What the-”
Mary had pushed herself up onto her elbows, whipping the sweat from her brow wearily as she took note of the archangel, “You know this boy, with the weird clothes,” she waved at Sam’s t-shirt and jeans, and he blushed, feeling suddenly out of place. “Thank you.”
Sam raised an eyebrow, he had expected. an annoyed remark on Gabriel’s absence, or something about letting a stranger into such a private and holy event. No such luck. Gabriel butted in before Sam could say anything to the thanks, however, “No problem, Mary. I knew you might need a hand. Anywho . . .” The angel made grabby motions towards the baby crying pitifully in Joseph’s arms, “Lemme see that thing.”
The Hunter frowned at the use of the word “Thing” but let it slide, standing up and looking over Gabriel’s shoulder as theTtrickster took the infant. Gabriel cooed at him and wrapped him tight in the cloth Joseph had provided. “That’s him, huh?” Sam whispered, awed.
Gabriel simply nodded as he continued to make little noises at the child, “Lookit you! Such a little cutie!”
Sam frowned, staring at the small boy, “He looks kinda familiar . . .”
“You’re imagining things,” Gabriel hushed him.
Together, they settled the child down in the manger stuffed with hay and wool from the sheep. Gabriel and Sam step aside to allow the new parents room to crowd around the baby. They marveled at him and whispered things to him Sam had no right to hear, so he simply stoped listening. “So,” he said to Gabriel, waiting for the inevitable shift to another memory, “Are we done here?”
“I’ve told you before I have no control over this,” Gabriel hissed, frustrated at his questioning. “Apparently there’s still something here that needs to be seen.” He crossed his arms and stared at the dirt beneath his feet.
Sam glanced up as the stable door creaked open, shifting until he was sure that, should it be an enemy, he could charge at them and stop them from hurting the baby and it’s parents in an instant. A man poked his head inside and gazed around in confusion before his eyes rested on the manger. Sam tensed, but Gabriel put an arm across his chest, stopping him from butting in, “Calm, it’s just the first Wiseman.”
The Hunter bared his teeth at Gabriel’s calm when it very well could have been a threat, but hung back and watched as all three filed in to stand around the manger, bearing beautiful gifts that glittered of precious metals and stones in the light of the candles in the stable. The third, as Sam watched them semi-warily, caught his eye more than the other two. He looked no different, bearing the typical beard and fancy getup as was the apparent style of higher stature in this age, but Sam took note of the glow behind his shoulders before any of this. He raised a hand in the man’s direction, casting a sidelong look at the archangel at his side, “He’s an angel?” he asked.
Gabriel blinked at him, “Balthazar? Yeah, he is. How’d you know? He’s hiding it pretty damn good.”
Sam shrugged, glancing at the glow behind the apparent angel once more, “I can see . . . His Grace? On his wings.”
The archangel bit his lip and mused over the Hunter’s words in silence for a heartbeat, “You really shouldn’t be able to, I wonder why that is?”
And the world shifted under their feet.
The events that flashed by were slower to Sam’s senses this time, images that paused and stilled like an old movie reel. Sometimes they would be much more reminiscent of a slideshow, capturing single moments in time like a photograph reflected for Sam to see. He watched the child grow up, as any child would, watched him play and explore and do all the tings a normal child would. It wasn’t surprising, not really, but Sam couldn’t recall anything about Jesus’ childhood to say it would be odd to learn he’d been just like any other boy his age.
Things paused every time that Gabriel made an appearance, though Sam didn’t doubt he was really there the whole time. The memory that caught in Sam’s mind the most, struck a cord if you will, was when the boy was six or seven.
Joseph had been teaching him how to work with wood, how to craft and create, carving with the grain and the lifelines of the tree. Jesus had looked so proud when Gabriel arrived, showing the angel a little cart he had made that was about the size of a man’s hand. The wheels even turned, and Gabriel examined the thing with much praise for the workmanship. “But you know what this cart needs?” Gabriel asked, clapping his hands together, “A strong horse to pull it.” When his palms parted he revealed the most beautiful wooden horse Sam had ever seen, which was saying something considering all the marvels of the twenty first century he’d witnessed. The horse was smooth and perfectly carved. Thin strips of leather made up it’s mane and tail, and two little chunks of round obsidian were it’s eyes. It was absolutely perfect, and the boy took it with awe and wonder in his eyes, attaching it to the cart as though it had always belonged there.
That wasn’t the last time Sam saw the horse, and as the memories continued tot flash by it continued to show up. Jesus treasured it, cleaning it whenever it got dirty, making sure not a smudge stuck to it’s body. When he began to travel, it was stowed away in the single small pouch he carried with him, tucked away in safety.
Sam had little interest in following the events that were told in the bible, and he paid them little attention. Some of the stories were skewed, especially the ones of the man’s younger years, but he started paying attention when he was standing at the base of a low rising hill, the Son at it’s peak, speaking to a gathered crowd about his Father. He noticed it then, what Gabriel had denied when the child was born, and his eyebrows furrowed together. The man’s beard was thicker than Sam had seen it in his time, and his eyes were a shade lighter, like someone who had seen more than most. But undoubtedly, Jesus Christ looked almost identical to Chuck Shirley. “What the . . .”
“You hadn’t guessed before?” Gabriel’s lips were near his ear, and the Hunter felt the prophet’s eyes fall to them, taking note of the archangel’s appearance. “He was more powerful than the average prophet, Winchester.”
“Dean suspected . . . But not this.”
Gabriel rocked back on his heels, “He suspected that kid was God, didn’t he? After he disappeared. Ha.” The archangel shook his head, amused, “Jesus is the middle plane’s incarnation of my Father, it’s technically the same thing.” He shrugged, grabbing Sam’s wrist in the same motion, “Come on now, not much of this series of memories left to go. And this one doesn’t have a happy ending either.”
Sam swallowed and allowed Gabriel to lay a hand over his eyes blocking out the things to come.
He could still hear, though. The anguished cries of Mary, the pained gasps that were choked back were still clear to his ears. The scent of blood lingered in his nostrils, and Sam closed his mouth so that he wouldn’t taste it in the air. The jeers of the Romans filtered in as well, and the emotion of betrayal was so strong from the gathered and the dying that even he felt it, it seeped into his heart with every beat. Tears welled in Sam’s eyes unbidden, stopped by Gabriel’s fingers blocking his sight. The archangel’s chest was against his back and he could feel the other’s heartbeat, rapid and uneven. Sam reached his hands over his shoulders, finding the side’s of Gabriel’s face and moving up, threading his fingers through the angel’s hair. While he felt panicked merely from the sounds and the overwhelming rush of anguish from the memories he couldn’t see, Gabriel was reliving them, events that had pained him thousands of years ago, and still pained him now.
“Let me see,” he urged, but Gabriel shook his head, his chin brushing against Sam’s shoulder.
“There’s nothing left to see,” and the hands lifted from Sam’s eyes, revealing the white blankness Sam had seen when he’d first stepped into Kali’s spell circle.
Sam gritted his teeth, suddenly angry at the lack of memory, “But- Gabriel, didn’t he rise after three days?”
Gabriel drew away from him back stepping away, “Rising doesn’t mean living, Sammy,” he muttered, frowning. “And it was three days.”
“Exactly!” Sam snapped, “You couldn’t have waited three days? Is that why there’s nothing else to see? I thought those memories, if nothing else, showed that you cared about him.”
The archangel snarled, surging forward and grabbing the collar of Sam’s shirt, “I did care! I do care! Do you even understand how long three days is in Hell, Sam? It’s a year, a whole fucking year. Back then, Hell was worse than it is now, if you can believe it. Every soul went there, every single one. And Jesus spent a year picking out the good from the rotten in that place.” His breath stuttered and he paused, chest heaving, Sam watching in stunned silence. “How could I . . . He was like my child, Sam, my brother. How was I supposed to look him in the eye after that, like everyone else did? To tell him I was sorry for what he’d been through, that I’d known all along it would happen.” Gabriel swallowed, “I’m the angel of prophecy, Sam. I knew what would happen, and I let it happen. Let him get hurt. I couldn’t face him after that.”
“He would have forgiven you,” Sam whispered.
“You can’t know that for certain,” Gabriel replied venomously, and he stepped away.