Blank Pages: Thursday
For what felt like years Sam watched Loki’s comings and going among humanity, and Gabriel didn’t once look his way. Sam watched him quarrel and fight with the other gods and demi-gods as if he truly belonged there, undeterred when they muttered behind his back that he was the odd duck of the family. The words made Sam’s heart clench in sympathy. Gabriel was an outcast even when he was already the outsider in the situation.
He was amazed to find a handful of the stories to be true, especially the ones he never expected. Sam reveled in Gabriel’s courage and determination when he courted Svaoilfari the great stallion as a stunning mare, refusing to change back once he found out he was caring Svaoilfari’s child, even when his pagan god siblings urged him to. Sam made note to mock him about it later but went back on the thought when he saw the foal, every inch of him absolutely beautiful, eight legs and all.
Sam knew it must have been over a hundred years that spanned the memories he hurtled through, and it was just after seeing Gabriel standing with his foal, human nose pressed to Sleipnir’s snout with a giggle of contentment the Hunter had never heard before from the angel, that he found himself standing in Heaven’s Garden again beside a very disgruntled looking Trickster.
“I don’t see why you need my help,” Gabriel snarled, folding his arms over his chest. He was facing Michael, still in Adam’s form. Unlike his elder brother however Gabriel’s wings remained unseen, completely restrained even to Sam’s eyes where the human could normally find a faint trace of Grace against his back where they would be. Michael took little notice of this fact, simply raising an eyebrow at his sibling’s stubborn attitude.
“I have allowed you to be away, Gabriel, and play the little games you have going on down on Earth with the other deities, but this is your duty before that.” Michael folded his arms, straitening as he did so, if only to manifest his superiority over his brother. “We must each do this at least once in our lifetimes, Gabriel, and your turn is long past due.”
Gabriel bared his teeth, “And you know perfectly well why that is, Michael. It would be wrong for me to so much as touch a fledgling, considering who it was that raised me.”
Michael stiffened noticeably, and Sam held his breath for the inevitable confirmation of what he had already seen. “Lucifer and I both looked after you, brother. And just because he had faults, does not make those same mistakes yours to bear.” With that Michael stepped back, reaching a hand inside the breast of his robes and drew out what looked to Sam like a chicken egg. A chicken egg the size of a college textbook that is. Its shell was a swirl of ivory and cloudy blue, and when Gabriel reached out to hesitantly touch its surface Sam noted the flare of Grace from his fingertips on contact. “Look, it already likes you,” Michael deadpanned. He deposited the egg into Gabriel’s arms while the younger blushed and proceeded to look decidedly flustered, “Okay, bye.” Sam blinked, for with that Michael turned on the spot and vanished, leaving the Hunter to mumble something to himself about apparation and Gabriel to stare blankly at the egg in his arms.
Then, for the first time in a hundred years worth of memories, the archangel looked straight at Sam, bustling over to him within a heartbeat of doing so. “Sammy! It’s bee awhile, huh?”
The Hunter glowered, “Gee, really? Now you decide to notice and talk to me?” He gestured vaguely off to his side, “Gabriel, you haven’t said a word to me since that night in Pompeii!”
Gabriel’s eyebrows furrowed together, “I haven’t?” Sam swallowed at the sudden lost look on the other’s face, remembering that the Trickster had no more control over the memories than Sam did, maybe even less as he was the one reliving them. “I . . .” The angel started, honey-gold eyes growing glazed, “Kiddo, all of this,” he waved a hand at the Garden, “and on Earth, with the pagan gods, they were the only times I was even mildly happy. It’s like a fog, and I can’t see past it to you sometimes, I’m sorry.”
“Is that the same for bad memories too?” Sam asked, voice unsure. This wouldn’t be the first time Gabriel lied to him.
“Less so, because at those times I need someone to look to to break myself out of the pain that I’ve already lived through. Pompeii was a shock though,” Gabriel shrugged loosely, the motion slow and calculated. Like a flawlessly carved mask.
Sam frowned but ignored it for the moment, instead taking a step towards the archangel and peering down at the large egg balanced in his arms, “Is that . . .?”
The Trickster grinned and raised it a bit for Sam to get a closer look, “Oh, you’re gonna love this Sam-o. This right here has a fledgling inside it. A very special fledgling.” He laughed when Sam cast him a bemused look, “You’re gonna love it, I promise.” Sam decided he’d just have to take his word for it.
Unfortunately, Gabriel massively zoned out around the egg after that, and ignored or forgot about Sam as he set about going through the motions of his memory, making a nest for the egg (made out of clothes and feathers and what looked like bed sheets to Sam), and then proceeding to be massively bored. At least they were on the same page.
Sam watched as Gabriel stared at the egg, commanding it to hatch with his eyes alone. He watched as Gabriel read a book with the white and sky-blue orb on his stomach. And he watched, and intercepted, as Gabriel tried to juggle the egg and a couple of rocks, the incident nearly ending in disaster until Sam caught the thing before it smashed on the ground.
“Gabriel!” Sam snapped, winded from where he lay on his back across the grass, the egg held gingerly just centimeters from the ground in the arm stretched out behind his head. It had been a particularly spectacular dive and catch if he said so himself, “Will you take this job seriously, like Michael said? You nearly just made scrambled-angel-baby!”
The archangel sat down beside the younger Winchester brother and proceeded to poke him in the stomach before taking the egg from his outstretched hand, “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. This is kinda how it went the first time around though, if the memory is correct. ‘Cept there was no one to catch it when I dropped it.” He sighed, and Sam gaped, shocked. “Probably why the kid is so weird,” Gabriel added after a pause, smiling as if he’d never thought of that as a cause before. Sighing again, he flopped down on the grass with the egg tucked against his side, Sam pushing himself up on his elbows just in time to take in Gabriel’s shift between noticing the human, and immersing himself in the memory.
A glassy look crossed the Trickster’s face not a second too soon, and Sam flinched as another angel wandered into view, pushing through the trees and undergrowth with a stormy scowl on his face. His eyes fell on Gabriel lightly dozing with the egg laying innocently at his side, and a dark smirk crossed his features as he bent over them both. Sam scooted back across the ground, knowing the angel couldn’t see him but feeling the dread coil up in his stomach all the same. The angel had dirty blond hair, not too similar to Dean’s in style. His milky blue eyes crinkled around the edges, and Sam felt that their shade, just slightly different from Castiel’s, was somehow infinitely more tainted in that single gaze alone he cast the archangel and the egg. His wings flexed against his back, a mix of dark grays and sunrise crimsons that looked almost like blood, and after a moment Sam realized he’d seen him before. Gabriel cracked open an eye then, unsurprised by the other angel’s presence hovering over him.
“Can I help you, Balthazar?” he asked coolly, raising an eyebrow.
Balthazar smiled toothily and shook his head, “Nothing in particular, brother, thank you. I merely came to get a look at the Last. I heard you were placed in charge of it.”
“That I was,” Gabriel yawned, putting a hand on the egg as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do, but Sam caught the way his fingers clenched against the shell, and the sudden protective gleam in the Trickster’s eyes. “Michael was a fool too leave it in my care, really.”
“A shame,” Balthazar agreed, and Gabriel stiffened, apparently not expecting others to agree with him. “The Last Angel should have someone who cares watching over it, really.”
“I care,” Gabriel hissed. He sat up and laid his hand flat against the egg, his upper lip pulled back in a silent snarl of defiance.
Balthazar simply looked amused at this show, “A pagan god has no place raising such an important angel,” he mused. He took a step back when Gabriel’s eyes glinted dangerously, “Though really, it is no concern of mine.”
“If I had it my way, I’d have dropped the egg off a cloud ages ago,” Balthazar coughed. He looked away, “After all, it’ll only cause more trouble than it’s worth in the end.”
Gabriel growled, pulling the egg up onto his lap and curling his body around it defensively, to which Balthazar seemed to take a hint and shook his head, pacing back through the trees as though he’d never said anything at all. The archangel watched him go until he couldn’t even hear him anymore before pressing his forehead to the azure and white shell with a groan of relief, the pads of his fingers gliding over the surface.
Slowly, Sam shuffled back to where he’d been before at the angel’s side and he smiled when Gabriel glanced up as he did so. “That Balthazar guy . . .” The Hunter started, allowing Gabriel his moment of protectiveness, “He was there the night Jesus was born, wasn’t he.”
“Yeah,” Gabriel muttered against the egg, brow furrowing, “I’ve never liked him much. He’s got some sort of mindset that everything our Father planned is a waste of time.”
“Isn’t it though?” Sam asked, thinking of the two years he and Dean had spent running around trying to clean up after one of those “plans.”
“Not everything,” Gabriel snapped, chin on the egg, “And not this. This,” he ran his hand across the shell, “Is one of the few good things in my life. Right up there with Jesus, the first few hundred years of being Loki, and a couple of other things as well.”
Sam frowned, “What other things?”
“You’ll see soon enough,” Gabriel muttered, “It’d be ridiculous to go through this whole ordeal and not come face to face with those kids again.” He sat up straighter suddenly, face lighting up, “It moved!” Sam didn’t have time to react as the Trickster grabbed his hand, placing it on the shell so that Sam could feel the shudder that passed through it, once, twice, before a long crack jolted down it’s frame and the archangel whooped in joy. “Sammy, you don’t get it, I know, but this is The Last, the last egg to hatch, the last true angel to be born. And long before this day he was prophesized to do great things.”
The Hunter chuckled, shaking his head, “By who, exactly?”
“Me of course,” Gabriel snorted, “I am the Messenger after all.” He placed his hands behind him and leaned back, watching as the egg rocked against his legs as the thing struggled to hatch. A piece of the shell broke off, and Gabriel fidgeted, apparently unable to wait anymore as he dug finger into the little hole created, peeling bigger and bigger fragments of the shell away until something wet and feathery tumbled out from the gap in the egg and onto the grass. For a dizzying second, Sam thought it was dead, until its wings, pure white and covered in soft down, flapped, expelling the slimy fluid from them in a single movement. Gabriel laughed and lifted the limp fledgling up who sniffled pathetically at the contact.
Gently, carefully, the archangel picked away the little pieces of shell that clung to the fledgling’s body and wiped away the egg fluid with the edge of his robes. Sam watched in fascination as the Trickster dried off the fledgling’s head to reveal a little tuft of dark hair. When it yawned, pink gums showing, its eyes flickered open expose shockingly blue eyes. Sam inhaled, “Holy . . . Cass . . .”
Gabriel smiled, placing a chaste kiss to the top of the little angel’s head, “Welcome to the world, Castiel. Angel of Thursday.”
After three plus years of being in the angel’s presence, it was only when he saw him grow from fledgling to young adult did Sam realize why Dean loved Castiel so much. He was the exact opposite of the elder Winchester in a thousand ways, and at the same time just like him in the places he needed to be.
Castiel spent his days as the shy baby angel that followed Gabriel around the Garden like a lost little duckling, tugging on the ends of the archangel’s robes and tripping along behind him. Where Gabriel’s wings had been inky black like the midnight sky, Castiel’s were unique in their ivory purity, beautiful in way even Michael’s were not. Sam had yet to see another living angel with white wings such as Castiel’s, the very picture of the angel wings every child and believer had ever imagined. Castiel seemed not to notice the difference between him and his siblings, and when Gabriel would flit between Heaven and Earth, angel and pagan respectively, the fledgling immersed himself in books detailing the thick history of the world he’d been born into. He memorized every detail so that he could recite it all back to the impressed archangel upon his return.
He didn’t notice the whispers hushed behind his back from his brethren at every turn, or if he did he simply ignored them. The other angels spoke of the fledgling that was the Last, the one that was just a little bit different, a little too human.
“Have you heard? Gabriel says this child will be the one to raise the Righteous Man.”
“Castiel? But he is just a fledgling, he’ll be less than two thousand years old when that day arrives. Much too young.”
“Too young and too easily influenced. Do you know, sister, that Gabriel has withheld the rest of that Message from us?”
“He claims it is so we do not interfere in what is right and what is meant to be. What do you think that means?”
“That Castiel is destined for trouble just like Gabriel, and Lucifer, that’s what I think.”
And Castiel just stared at them, the same way he stared at everyone else in his lifetime to come. Cold, calculating, powerful, with his back straight and his hands clenched at his sides.
He got in a fight with the second youngest, Famiel, about it though, and Gabriel spent over an hour pulling out broken feathers from Castiel’s wings while Cass sniffled and gritted his teeth and bore with it, though his blue eyes were tearing up around the edges.
“Gabriel,” he said quietly while the archangel preened the younger’s feathers, “They say things about me, about a Righteous Man. I don’t understand.” Gabriel raised an eyebrow, amusement clear in his gaze as he eyed the adolescent angel.
“I wouldn’t worry about what they say too much, Castiel. They don’t know anything.”
“But they say you do,” Castiel whispered, glancing over his shoulder at the other with large pleading eyes. Sam put a hand over his mouth in order not to laugh.
“I do,” Gabriel chuckled as he smoothed out a mussed white primary, “But that hardly means I’ll tell you about it.” He smiled at Castiel’s put out expression and shook his head. “Castiel, knowing your future, and the future of those you care about, is a terrible burden to have. You are better off not knowing.”
Castiel crossed his arms, head turning away from his brother once more, “Fine. I shall just hope I know this Righteous Man when I see him then.” At this Gabriel laughed so hard he was gasping for breath and he let go of Castiel’s right wing so that he could pound at his chest.
“Oh, Castiel, you will know him, I guarantee it. The minute your Grace sees his soul, no matter how torn you find it, you will know. And you will love him all the more for it.”
“More than you?”
The Trickster huffed, “I would hope so! I’m a terrible influence on little fledglings like you, and you’d do better to forget me.”
Castiel frowned, “I won’t. Will I love him more than Father?”
Gabriel’s eyes clouded for a moment in pain, and he inhaled slowly, “Castiel, you can not truly love what you have never seen. You fear Father’s power, and you are loyal to him and love him because that is what you have been told is right. But it is nothing like real love. It is fake, and forced, and broken.” Sam stared at the ground, the words going straight to his heart as he watched. “True loyalty comes from trust. Which comes from a connection and a bond. And true love comes from such loyalty. You will know it when the time comes.”
“Do you know it?” Castiel asked, almost too quiet to hear.
“I have felt pieces of it, but not really. Not yet.”
Gabriel was tracing the Enochian letters in a text Sam couldn’t even begin to decipher. His eyes were glazed, and Sam knew he was dreading the memories to come. Carefully, he laid a hand on the archangel’s shoulder, watching him shiver at his touch. “This is cruel,” the Trickster hissed between his teeth, “And it serves no purpose in the bond being created.”
Sam looked over the other’s shoulder at the book, spine well worn and the page creased and folded around the edges where Gabriel had worried it, “I’m supposed to know the good and the bad in you, right? Maybe this is a part of that?”
“It’s not,” Gabriel slammed the book closed, “It’s not good nor bad on my part, it’s simply pain. Pain, and cruel destiny.” He spat out the last word, shoulders stiffening as he said it in a way that made Sam wonder if Destiny held the same connotations for Gabriel as the word Faith did to Castiel. A broken promise in a screwed up story.
They looked up as the sound of rustling feathers diverted their attention, and found Castiel standing on the other end of the table, toeing at the floor nervously. “Michael says it’s time for you to go,” he murmured regretfully, glancing up at the archangel as though waiting for a cue of some sort.
“Very well,” Gabriel sighed. He stood and made his way from the building to stand out in the afternoon sunlight. Balthazar was there, and Sam growled under his breath at the sight of him. Balthazar looked smug as Castiel blazed past. The little angel ran down the steps ahead of the Trickster so Gabriel wouldn’t see the anger and grief on his face at being left behind. Gabriel knew anyways.
“One day his actions will change the world as we know it,” Gabriel said suddenly, eyes falling on Balthazar with a carefully guarded look.
“As I’m sure yours will as well, Messenger,” Balthazar smirked. “Just as long as you don’t interfere with what is already written.”
“And what would you know about that?” Gabriel asked coldly, folding his arms behind his back as he waited for an answer.
“You are not the only one who knows of things to come,” Balthazar murmured vaguely. He watched Gabriel freeze in surprise, “Oh, not me, of course. But there are prophets, and texts written by prophets. They exist not just in the faith of our people, Gabriel, but in the world as a whole. I know just as much as you about what is to become of the child whose birth you will fly down and oversee this night.”
“Two children,” Gabriel corrected evenly.
“And two Once And Futures,” Balthazar hummed, “What will you do, Gabriel?”