Blank Pages: Ashes To Ashes
As Gabriel stepped back, Sam found himself staring at entirely different world than he’d last been placed in. Gabriel had vanished once again, and the Hunter’s eyes widened as he took in the sight of a cobbled street lined with low buildings underneath a pure blue. It wasn’t the perfect blue of Heaven and clouds were dotted here and there, but it was beautiful, untainted yet by the machines of the twentieth century. The air too was fresher somehow, tinged with the smells of the new city he’d been placed in, baking bread and cool water that could be heard over the hustle and bustle of the people, running through a stream nearby.
Sam sucked in a long breath, turning on the spot to try and see exactly where he was for certain, get his bearings. For it’s time, the city itself was absolutely stunning, and Sam guessed from the use of the aqueduct he could see nearby that he was somewhere in Italy, Rome perhaps. His eyes fell on a mountain looming up from just above the buildings, and his brow furrowed together at the thin line of smoke he could see rising from it. A fire? Or . . .
A shoulder bumped against him, and he jerked out of his thoughts to see Gabriel striding past, talking amiably to another man. He glanced up as he made contact with Sam, giving him a grim smile before carrying on, making Sam hurry after him if he had any hope of seeing what was to come. As Sam drew up beside him he noticed the angel’s garb. Where before Gabriel had remained clothed in the robes he adorned in Heaven, here he possessed what Sam could assume was the traditional dress, as the other man was wearing something similar. He bore a gold cloth covering his person from shoulders to just below his knees, tied up and held by a thin, fine rope along his waist. Behind his ear he’d tucked a sprig of some green plant or another, and it held his hair back from his honey eyes.
His eyes themselves shone. Sam had the sinking feeling that they had not done so for years after the Son’s death, and he felt a burst of relief at the thought that Gabriel was somehow at peace here, as he assumed had been the angel’s intention of staying a place as beautiful as this.
As he thought that, Gabriel nudged his companion, nodding towards the distant mountain, “Mount Vesuvius is in poor spirits today, should we not get someone to climb to the peak and see that all is well?”
Sam’s heart lurched, and his eyes went to the mountain instantly. He stood frozen in place as the other two continued to walk.
“No, if there’s something wrong I’m sure the soldiers we have stationed at the post there will alert us, it is one of their many jobs after all,” the other man replied smoothly. He had light auburn brown hair that shone in the afternoon sunlight, his eyes of a similar shade. Well muscled with arms laced in scars both thin and thick, Sam had to wonder if he was a gladiator, as his dress was far from as formal as Gabriel’s was.
The Hunter paled at the other man’s words, swallowing as his eyes caught sight of that thin, almost unnoticeable line of smoke in the sky once again. Oh, Gabriel. The archangel’s gaze was unworried as he turned away from the peak, heading down another street with his friend, and Sam followed at a slower pace. There was no fear in the way Gabriel walked, as there was with Sam now, who couldn’t help glancing over his shoulder at the ominous shadow the mountain cast over the city, trembling every time he thought he caught a whiff of the smoke, though he knew it was yet too far away to smell. Gabriel was oblivious, and for the first time knew nothing of the things to come. Unlike Sam. Sam didn’t need a sign to tell him where he was, the mountain’s name had been enough, and he wished he could close his eyes then and now and miss the destruction to come.
For this was the grand city of Pompeii.
Turing another corner, Sam found himself standing suddenly inside a room, and when he glanced over his shoulder the street he’d come from was gone, a wall in it’s place. Red cloth hung from the corners, draped along the upper parts of the walls on all four sides, curtaining over the stone entryway to the room. A bed, different from what Sam was used to, but elegant for it’s age, adorned with thin golden hangings and tassels so that anyone inside would be shielded from prying eyes was in the far corner. A chair sat, similar to the ones Sam had seen people lay on in psychiatrists’ office in the center of the room beside a table decorated with fresh fruits in a bowl. It was there, unsurprisingly, that he found Gabriel, lounged on his back and popping grapes in his mouth.
“Heya, Sammy!” he called, motioning the other over.
Warily, Sam approached, staring at Gabriel’s outstretched hand when it was offered,
“Wha-” he started, allowing the angel to grasp his own hand before he was pulled down on top of the other with a startled squeak. “Gabriel!”
Gabriel grinned, sprawling out underneath him, arms behind his head. His wings weren’t corporal, but at this close range Sam could make out the faint glow of where they were hidden behind the angel’s shoulder blades. Waggling his eyebrows, Gabriel held up a grape to Sam’s lips, ignoring the way the Hunter had levered himself up on his hands so that they were barely touching, “I’m sure you’re starving,” he said smartly, “So eat as much as you want, kiddo.”
“Gabriel-” Sam started, mind roiling with questions and his body screaming, “Run away!” but the archangel simply laughed, popping the grape into the his open mouth. He chewed, frowning down at the Trickster before trying to speak again, “Gabriel, this is serious, you do know that-”
“That Pompeii is going to burn in a fiery pit of ash?” Gabriel asked, voice tinged with anger, “No, I didn’t. Not at the time. This was when I . . .” He closed his mouth, shaking his head, “Never mind, you’ll see for yourself. That’s what the point of this whole memory trip is after all. That, and rebuilding myself of course.”
Sam narrowed his eyes. “Why did you come here, to this place?” he asked. If Gabriel was the angel of prophecy, as he’d said before, surely he would have known what was to befall Pompeii and it’s people.
The angel shrugged again, “To relax, mostly. Forget, maybe. I came here as soon as Jesus breathed his last breath, and I stayed until it was buried beneath the spit of the mountain. It was a paradise on earth, Sammy, and I felt safe there - here,” he corrected, looking unsure of which term to use. “But anyways,” Gabriel picked up a slice of apple between his fingers, pressing it to Sam’s lips, “Eat. Even in a memory, this is your real body. I’m not going to let you wither like a dried up prune.” He made a face at the very thought, and Sam guessed that prunes were not the angel’s food of choice in the slightest.
Obediently Sam opened his mouth, licking the slice inside and chewing, the juice of the apple sliding down his chin. Gabriel blinked and watched the coarse of the sticky stuff drip down before he pushed himself up onto his elbows, tongue darting out to lick it away. Sam stared at him, stunned, before he swallowed, “What was that?”
“What was what?” Gabriel asked innocently, raising a hand and threading his fingers through the back of Sam’s hair.
“That,” Sam pointed to his chin, “and this,” he motioned to Gabriel’s hand in his hair, “What are you doing?”
Gabriel hummed thoughtfully, “You know,” he said, and Sam rolled his eyes at the evasion of the question, “Back in this time, the only true bond was thought to be between two men.”
Sam’s heart leapt to his throat, “Uh, I really don’t think this is the time for-”
“Prude?” Gabriel asked lightly, in the same tone Dean always took when Sam sneered at his skin magazines.
“No,” Sam snapped before falling onto his forearms so that their chests were touching, “Try me.”
And Gabriel did, pulling Sam down with the hand he had in his hair until their lips met, kissing him hard. Sam’s breath escaped him and when he opened his mouth Gabriel slipped his tongue inside, exploring across gums and teeth, nudging at Sam’s own tentatively. Tentatively. The word itself seemed foreign when combined with Gabriel, and Sam deepened the kiss at the very thought of it, taking the angel by surprise this time. There was snap and Sam felt himself falling back with a huff, the breath knocked out of him as Gabriel landed on top of him across the bed where they’d been transported to with magical archangel powers. “Misuse of power,” Sam chided, sucking in air.
Gabriel laughed, lacing his fingers into Sam’s hair again, their foreheads touching, “Please. It’s my Grace and I can do what I wish with it. Item number one on the list is Seducing a Winchester,” he leaned down and pecked a kiss to Sam’s lips teasingly.
Sam snorted, “I would think it would be ‘Return oneself to one’s body’ first and foremost.”
“Less important,” Gabriel said loudly, as though making a statement to an audience instead of just Sam, “I’ve been dead, and as a small child for far too long. I need me some awesome.”
The Hunter groaned, arching up as Gabriel kissed him once again, hands on either side of his face. He moved his own up, finding purchase against the archangel’s shoulders, “And by ‘awesome’ you mean . . .” Sam prompted when they broke apart for a breath, his chest heaving, fingers wandering down the wrinkles in Gabriel’s Roman clothes to the rope at his waist.
The angel held up his hand and snapped twice, the first time causing their clothing to disappear, to which Sam shivered, the second time to move the fruit bowl onto the bed, to which Sam glared. “Awesome fun naked times, what else would you expect from me?” he smirked, grabbing a strawberry and biting into it, red juice drizzling from the fruit onto Sam’s chest.
Sam arched up again, nails digging into Gabriel’s shoulders as the archangel licked a stripe down his body from sternum to navel, lapping up the streak of red from the strawberry in one movement. “You know,” Gabriel murmured as he placed another small kiss just above Sam’s belly button, “I’ve been waiting for this a long time.”
Sam raised an eyebrow and he loosened his grip on the angel’s shoulders. “You sure didn’t act that way,” he said darkly, and Gabriel flinched, “Not until you died. Why now?”
Gabriel frowned, “I acted as I was required, Sam. I was forbidden to touch the vessels, did you know? The first time we met I barely lifted a finger towards you,” He began tracing a circle on Sam’s stomach, not meeting his eyes, “And the second . . .”
“The second you hurt Dean,” Sam filled in, voice cold.
“No!” Gabriel jerked his gaze up, honey gold meeting green, “That’s not what I set out to do. I’ve told you before, Sam, in these memories, that I am the angel of prophecy. Even though it was forbidden, I was . . .” He looked away again, “I didn’t want you to become what Ruby turned you in to. I tried to show you revenge got you nowhere, but you were too stubborn. My methods weren’t ideal, but they were all I had, Sammy, all I knew after years of playing Loki. In order to teach, you must trick. I . . .” He drew off, watching the confused, softer gaze Sam had shifted to, “I care about you, a lot.”
“Show me,” Sam whispered, and Gabriel shivered as his fingers fumbled against his shoulders, moving to touch between the blades of them to where the base of his wings would lie.
Sam watched in silence as the angel’s wings unfurled, a mass of dark feathers, some of them shaking loose to float towards the floor. He tilted his neck as Gabriel placed a series of kisses along his jaw line, trailing smaller and smaller ones down his neck and across his sternum. Their legs tangled together and Sam whimpered at the sudden friction, curling his fingers into black feathers, eyes fluttering closed as Gabriel gasped.
Their movements were jerky, hesitant as they explored each other, trapped in a memory until the blood bond came full circle. Sam shivered with every tiny kiss Gabriel graced him with, mapping out his skin with lips and fingers tracing along old scars. He parted his legs when Gabriel asked him to with touch alone, thanking the stars for magical angel powers (as Dean insisted on calling them) when the archangel pushed inside him relatively pain free, the movement swift and easy. Sam wrapped his legs around the other’s waist as they rocked, burying his face in the pocket between Gabriel’s neck and shoulder with a muffled cry when he came, the angel kissing away the tears that had welled in the corners of his eyes.
When Sam drifted awake the faintest smell of ash was already in the air, even inside the room. He rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling for a moment before he levered himself up onto his elbows, twisting to the side to catch sight of Gabriel. The archangel was snoring slightly and Sam smiled to himself, realizing that until now he hadn’t been sure if angels rested or not, let alone slept.
“Only when we feel like it,” Gabriel yawned as he shifted to his stomach and pressed his face into the cloth. “Today’s the day, isn’t it,” he said, voice muffled.
“Yeah,” Sam said, though really he was guessing, “I think so.” He rolled out of bed, searching for his clothes and finding them neatly folded on the table beside the long chair. He slipped them on with his back to the angel, and when he turned around the bed was empty.
He wasn’t surprised, really. Gabriel seemed to get whisked away into his memories at the oddest of times, today would be no exception. It took some time, but eventually Sam navigated the hallways of the building he was in to the outside, pulling his shirt up over his mouth as he stepped out into the ash filled air.
To his surprise no one seemed alarmed at the light flurries of ash and pumice raining down like darkly colored snow, and many people were going about their daily business with pieces of cloth covering their nose and mouth. Sam wanted to yell at the mother who passed with her child, tell her run and leave the city before things got worse, as he knew they would, but she wouldn’t have heard him inside the memory.
He noticed Gabriel, back against the building Sam had just emerged from, staring up at the smoke clouded sky with narrowed eyes, the same man Sam had seen with him the day before at his side. “Doesn’t this seem a bit worse to you than usual, Sirix?” he asked, glancing at the man in worry.
Sirix, as Gabriel had called him, put a hand to his nose and mouth, lacking the cloth the other citizens had, Gabriel also minus one, “It does. I shall inform Lady Aglaia. She can set up an emergency system if things start to go bad.” He shrugged, gesturing for Gabriel to follow as they made their way past Sam. The Hunter trailed behind them with his eyes for a heartbeat before he found himself standing in a different scene entirely.
The mother he had seen before was running, or rather stumbling through soot and ash knee deep, her child at her side, clinging to her cloths as he practically swam through the hot ash, crying all the way. Sam looked away. Whatever Sirix and Gabriel had tried to plead with the nobles of this city, it had failed.
As if on cue the man in question himself came hurrying past, a young woman held safely out of the way of the burning ash on the ground in in his arms. Gabriel shoved through at his side, pointing to the far end of the city from the mountain, “Get to the docks, Sirix!” he commanded, “I will try and help the people!”
“I’ll be back,” Sirix promised, heading for the docks. Sam cast a glance back at Gabriel as the archangel swooped over and lifted up the child from the ash, a motion that revealed the boy’s raw red burnt legs, taking his mother by the arm and directing them the way he’d pointed Sirix, placing the child in her arms. The Hunter turned away and followed Sirix and the girl he was carrying, curiosity getting the better of him.
On the dock Sirix set the young lady down and motioned to the boats waiting for those strong enough to reach them, “Go, Serena,” he pleaded, “I’ll be right behind you in a few minutes, I promise. I must go get Loleus and Lady Aglaia.”
“You’ll really be venturing into the darkness?” Her eyes, a copper tinted gray, darted to the rain of ash in the city behind him and down to her own legs, flecked with burns from the piles and sweeps she now stood in.
“I’m sorry, Serena,” Sirix whispered, reaching out to brush a strand of ebony hair from her eyes, “But as a servant of the House of Felix I must do what I can to ensure their safety.” He swallowed, the sound audible amidst the wails of the city behind him, “You go down to the end of the harbor with the other escapees.” Sirix turned just as Gabriel reached the docks carrying two more children, pausing to wait as the other man approached.
“No,” Serena spoke up, “I will wait for you here.”
Sirix stiffened, and Gabriel rested a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, “I might not be coming back, Serena!”“All the more reason!” She called to him, waiting until he faced her again. Gabriel hung back. “For I can not live even one second in a world without you.”
It was the cheesiest, sappiest thing Sam had ever heard, but he covered his mouth with a hand to hold back the sound of a sob as the words echoed around the dock. This wasn’t some movie he was witnessing, but people’s actual lives and deaths as Gabriel remembered them. They were true words and exchanges, playing out eternally in the archangel’s mind.
“To live my life, with you, Sirix, is the reason I was born,” Serena whispered.
Sirix moved to embrace her, pressing his chin to the top of her head, “Serena, I’ll come back, I swear it.”
And the world faded to black.
This time when Sam blinked, he found himself in the Garden of Eden again, and the shift between the death plagued air and Heaven made him dizzy. Gabriel was nose to nose with Michael, face red and twisted in grief and rage, “Why was I not told about Pompeii?!” he asked, voice rising with every syllable.
Michael regarded him coolly ,“Pompeii is not under our control, Gabriel, you know that.”
Gabriel’s eyes widened, “But . . . This world was made by our father! Why-”
“And it is governed by humanity,” Michael interjected, “Who are free to believe in whatever they wish. And that is not always us and our father, Gabriel.”
“They believe in other gods, if you will. And in belief comes creation where there was nothing before.”
Gabriel narrowed his eyes, brow furrowing in anger, “And they had the right to slaughter hundreds of innocent people?”
“The people killed believed in the powers of those gods, thus they could do with their believers as they wished. We have no say in the matter,” with this Michael turned away, apparently tired of the conversation at hand.
The younger archangel snarled and stalked off in the opposite direction, hands fisted at his side. With a flap of his wings he alighted in the lower boughs of a tree, digging his nails into the bark of the trunk, “This is stupid,” he hissed, glaring down at the ground where Sam stood not far away, though the Hunter knew he was looking right through him. “Stupid, stupid. How can a heartless pagan god have more power than an archangel.” He inhaled suddenly, eyes turning dark, “A pagan god has more power than an archangel . . .”
Sam knew that at that exact moment in time Gabriel had an idea that would change the future of the world in an instant.
A/N: The characters in Pompeii are from the manga NG Life. It is not nessasary to read the manga to get the scene though.