Blank Pages: Deliver Us, Too
Aziraphale moved around Europe every few years, and Gabriel with him. Sam was startled the first time Crowley simply waltzed in a few years into the memories, and neither angel so much as lifted a finger to stop him. Gabriel looked up from the book he was reading with a raised eyebrow, “Caphriel, was wondering where you got off to after the war. How’s Hell?”
“Boring, mundane, slightly more interesting than Heaven,” Crowley yawned, throwing himself into the armchair Aziraphale was already sitting on, pushing the tome the angel was holding onto the floor and sitting across his lap with a smug grin. “How’s shacking up with Az here?” He draped his arms around the blond angel’s shoulders, raising an eyebrow towards Gabriel.
“We’re not ‘shacking up,’” Gabriel snorted, turning back to his book, “Have at it.”
Crowley did just that, Aziraphale letting out a shocked little squeak as the demon kissed him.
Time continued to be like water, the slightest ripple sending Sam to a different memory all together.
Sam couldn’t help but be surprised the at moment when Gabriel stood in the hall of a little hospital in Lawrence Kansas, cradling a tiny, newborn baby and whispering soft things to it that Sam could hear clear as day.
“Samuel, Sammy, Sam . . . You will grow up to be a special little boy, and a wonderful young man.” He turned to Sam then, the current Sam, and grinned, “Did you really think I’d not be here the moment you were born?” Sam shook his head, blushing furiously, “Idiot. I’m the Messenger, the angel of prophecy. And your prophecy, kiddo, was more important than any other I ever took part in.”
“What about Jesus?” Sam joked.
“Less important.” He said simply. “I rebelled for you, Sammy.” He tickled the baby under the chin, elbowing the Hunter in the side in the same motion, “I wonder if the whole memory would implode if you touched your past self . . . Hmm . . .”
The world blurred again, events flickering in and out too fast for Sam to follow. There were brief periods where Sam couldn’t see anything hear anything at all, as though someone was muddling up his senses and covering his eyes. After that however, everything was painfully clear.
Gabriel was sitting in the overstuffed, and yet strangely comfortable armchair by the front window of Aziraphale’s shop that he’d bought a few years before. The younger angel was perched on his desk, an old, leather bound book balanced on his lap while his right arm rested on a precarious stack of newer tomes. Sam stood unnoticed in a corner. Silence stretched endlessly between them as Sam looked on, it was a Tuesday afternoon, and all of the few and far between potential customers were at work. Out of all the Trickster’s brothers, Aziraphale was the only one Gabriel could stand being in the same room with for so long. He was quiet, thoughtful, and only ever spoke up when he had something important to say. The exact opposite of most of Gabriel’s other companions. Stretching his arms over his head, his body uncurling like a cat after sleep, he closed his book, “Az, you ever gonna go back to Heaven?”
Aziraphale looked up with a frown, “What a ridiculous notion. Of course not,” he drawled, returning his eyes to the book. He was scribbling down little notes on a pad of paper beside him as he read. Sam sidled over to the blonde’s over to the blonde’s side and tried to decipher them, but Aziraphale’s handwriting was like serial killer. After a moment, the younger angel coolly shot back, “And you’re not either, I presume.”
“No chance,” Gabriel smiled. “I have too much fun down here. Which is why I have to spend the last days of earth wreaking havoc as usual.”
“The last days of earth?” Aziraphale echoed, still engrossed in the musty old book on his knees. Sam tensed.
At this, Gabriel gave the other angel a characteristic eyebrow raise, “Surely you’ve heard, bro. The Apocalypse is coming.”
Aziraphale glanced up with a bored stare, “It’s always coming. We have a scare here and there every few years.” He rested his chin in his palm, “The Antichrist I once knew will be turning twenty two this year. He’s a grown man, and no longer of much of a threat to anyone.” The Hunter blinked, confused, but he passed it off to the time when the memories had blurred over and hidden from him.
“There’s a new one,” Gabriel started.
“There’s always a new one,” Aziraphale sighed.
“And the vessels-”
Aziraphale looked mildly interested as Gabriel started to speak again, “The vessels? That is new. They’re not as common. You’ve met them, I suppose?”
Gabriel rested his hands in his lap, curling his fingers uncomfortably, “Not officially, no. I held the second, Lucifer’s kid, though.”
The younger angel’s eyes narrowed, “You do not want to. Why? They are God’s chosen. You should have been looking after them, watching over them, giving them reasons not to say yes. Why are you here, Gabriel? When you should be there.”
The archangel frowned, “I just want it to be over. If we let them fight, it’ll all be over, and we won’t have to sit around with our thumbs up our ass waiting anymore.” He’d interfered before, and he’d sat back and stood by as well. Better to let it rest and stay away from it entirely than witness so much anguish all over again.
“So you’ll give our brothers those children without a second thought. You, the protector of men, God’s mouthpiece.” Aziraphale shook his head, his blue eyes full of remorse, “You are a coward, Gabriel.”
Fury blazed in Gabriel’s eyes, “I am no coward! I don’t want to watch them tear each other apart! They’re my family, no matter how long I’ve been away! Interfering means choosing a side!” He stood, striding over to his brother and flinging the book to the ground, Sam dodging out of the way though he knew neither could see him in this memory.
The ancient leather volume hit the floor and skidded across the hardwood, it’s worn old pages crinkling and bending. Aziraphale scowled, “That was a very important text there, brother,” he said softly, though his blue eyes glinted with anger. He shoved himself away from the desk until he was nose to nose with Gabriel, or rather, nose to eye. Aziraphale was a few inches taller than the other. Sweeping his long, tied back silver-blond hair over his shoulder, the younger angel adjusted his glasses on his nose and sighed, “Gabriel, you look at the world in black and white. Have you ever thought that maybe there was a gray mixed in there somewhere?”
Gabriel bit his lip, “What?”
Aziraphale smiled, “Humans, demons, angels, sometimes we all want the same thing. Freedom is the most prized treasure of all, Gabriel. And Father gave every one of us a choice. Though the third path may be a bit harder to find your way on, that never means it’s the wrong one.”
“Demon lover,” Gabriel hissed between his teeth, disregarding the rest of the short speech. He hadn’t forgotten his sibling’s fondness for one in particular, and the memory irked him to no end. Sam chuckled to himself at the words, however, glad that for once Gabriel was not paying any attention to him.
“Thank you for that obvious statement,” Aziraphale smirked, “And by that same token, are you not the same towards humans? I recall your endearment towards Joan of Arc with perfect clarity, brother. That was where we met, after all.” The younger was not surprised to find himself suddenly thrown up against the desk, his back bending painfully over the stacks of books that began to topple over onto the chair behind. “You loved her like your own child, Gabriel. Don’t think I don’t know. And I can see in your eyes that it is for a similar reason you’ve been avoiding the vessels. Is it not?” He smiled, “You’re afraid of watching them die.” Sam inhaled, fisting a hand in the material of his shirt over his chest.
“I’m no coward,” Gabriel growled. “I held that child in my arms, knowing full well what he would grow up to be. You can’t possibly understand what having that knowledge is like. I never asked to be Father’s tool like this. I don’t want to know what the future will bring.” His nails dug into Aziraphale’s skin, his eyebrows furrowing together. “Every time I know, I either fuck it up, or get hurt myself.”
Aziraphale’s eyes drifted to the book lying on the floor where Gabriel had tossed it, the fading letters spelling out something along the lines of “Nice and Accurate Prophecies” on it’s cover just visible in the London afternoon light. “I understand more than you think, brother. What you don’t seem to understand is that knowing is half the battle. If you know what’s to come about, you can do something about it, can you not?”
Gabriel inhaled slowly, his grip on the other loosening, “It’s fate.” Sam couldn’t help but wince.
“Nothing is ever set in stone, even when a prophet writes it,” Aziraphale smiled. “Why don’t you meet these vessels in person, Gabriel? See their strength and their souls with your own eyes. There is always room for people to change, you just have to give them a shove in the right direction. Humanity is a beautiful thing.”
“Humanity isn’t beautiful, Aziraphale,” Gabriel snorted in reply, eyes narrowed in disgust. “It’s foolish, broken, and contaminated with things like desire and want.” he folded his arms over his chest, backing up from the younger angel with a roll of his eyes.
“You’ve seen much of it, haven’t you,” Aziraphale said solemnly. “You’ve seen the darker side of it in your time as Loki.”
“I am Loki,” Gabriel sneered. “There was never a real god by that name, only me. I took that guise long before I left for good.”
“I know,” the other smiled wisely. “You think me arrogant to your ways, brother. But I’m not. You may have taken up permanent residence after Joan of Arc’s death, but you have been living among Earth’s peoples from the moment Adam was created.” He tilted his head to the side, studying Gabriel with a contemplating look, “You want to go to him, don’t you, Gabriel.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Aziraphale laughed, and Gabriel raised his eyebrow at the action, unused to it coming in any sincerity from other angels aside from himself. “The vessel, brother,” he clarified with genuine amusement in his Grace-blue eyes, “You are worried for him, are you not?”
Sam shivered at the tone in the words, glancing around for a calendar so he could check the date, though he knew it was years still before they would meet on a college campus, a Hunter and a Trickster. Even this far back, before Azazel murdered Jess, before their father died, Gabriel was aware of Sam’s every move, worried for him, holding back from helping.
Gabriel sat down in the chair he’d been in before, falling heavily into it and slumping in it’s reassuring presence. “Lucifer’s already played a hand in tainting him,” he admitted slowly. “His name is whispered among the demons even now.”
“And you believe it to be too late?”
“No,” the archangel snarled, “Of course not. But-” he stopped, eyes turning to the window, “I’m not an angel anymore, Aziraphale. I can pretend to be, but I’m not. I may still have my wings and my Grace, but I’m too sullied.” He flexed his hand, clenching his fingers against his palm in frustration, “Too pagan. Too human.”
“Aren’t we both,” Aziraphale sighed as he bent to pick up the books Gabriel had thrown to the floor earlier. His fingers lingered on the old, musty tome for a minute longer than the others before he lovingly closed it, caressing it’s leather bound cover with a smile. “That’s because humanity possesses what we were born without, what we have to learn for ourselves.” He chuckled as Gabriel cocked his head lazily, confused. “Free will, Gabriel.”
“Team Free Will. One ex-blood junkie, one dropout with 6 bucks to his name, and Mr. Comatose over there. Awesome.” The words echoed in Sam’s mind as clear as they had been when Dean had first spoken them.
“You have it too, you know. I wonder if you were not the first of us to have it,” Aziraphale finished.
“Lucifer-” Gabriel started.
“Is no more your brother anymore than any other demon. I know you cared for him greatly, Gabriel. But is choices caused his own downfall.” Aziraphale shook his head sadly, “Brother, do not let yourself be the same by just standing idly by. If you want to see the vessel, then see him.” He leaned back from where he was balanced on his heels on the floor, an odd sparkle in his eyes, “Give yourself time to get used to the idea, settle down somewhere and make mischief like you always do. He’ll find you eventually. It’s meant to happen.”
Gabriel blinked, “Weren’t you the one just going on and on about free will?”
Aziraphale smirked, “It is your free will. But whether or not you go to him now, or never, he will find you. Your Grace and his soul are remarkably the same.”
“Like you and that demon?” Gabriel said sarcastically. His gaze roamed over the empty shop with a vague look of curiosity, “Where is he, by the way? Haven’t seen him in a few years.”
“Busy preparing to play his own part in destiny,” Aziraphale said calmly, restacking the books. “He’s making connections and holing up in a very hidden, but noticeable place in America. He won’t tell me where.” He laughed softly, “Crowley can take care of himself, and so can I. He’ll come back when he’s bored again.”
“You love him, don’t you,” Gabriel said coldly.
“I wouldn’t exactly say that, I would never bind him with such a thing. He’s free to see whoever he wants, and has had many human lovers of both sexes through the millions of years we’ve been alive.” The younger angel looked thoughtful, leaning against the desk. “But we’ve been through much together, him and I. I would be lost without him.”
“Isn’t that love?” Gabriel raised his eyebrow and frowned.
“Hardly,” Aziraphale made a face, “He’s letting his human body age for convenience at the moment. And I’ll tell you now there is not one thing about that I love.” He made a face that caused Gabriel to snicker. “Angels are supposed to be incapable of love, Gabriel.”
“Incapable of love for things our Father did not create,” Aziraphale corrected himself, studying his nails, “Which includes demons. Humans, however, are the one thing we are told to love more than God.”
The memory caved in on itself then, and Sam knew exactly where they were going to end up next, and his heart raced in the excitement of seeing this side of it.
Aziraphale leaned out the third floor window of the deceased professor’s office, smiling broadly as he caught sight of the pair of young men making their way towards an old, but very nicely kept black Chevy Impala. “So that’s him, is it? The vessel? He’s quite the catch, I must say.”
“Az!” Gabriel snapped, looking annoyed. Sam, standing just behind them, laughed so hard he almost couldn’t breath.
“Oh don’t get all uptight, I didn’t mean anything by it.” He swept his long, tied back blond hair over his shoulder with a fond smirk, “After all, he’s not mine to take. You’ve been waiting almost six years, haven’t you, Gabriel.”
Gabriel snorted, staring down at the car as it rumbled to life and began to drive away. Absently, he began to pick at the collar of his navy-blue janitor uniform, watching the Impala vanish over the hill leading down to the college. Yes, he’d been waiting, it wasn’t a lie. He had bided his time and waited, playing meaningless pranks on the thickheaded and the arrogant on the college grounds, hoping that the Winchesters would someday pick up his trail. And so they had. “They’re going to come around again tomorrow, I’m sure. Once they figure out that the professor took his swan dive from this room.” He shrugged, trying not to look as though he was anticipating the encounter, but Aziraphale only smiled knowingly. Father, his brother was such a prat.
“And what will you say to him, brother?” Aziraphale asked calmly.
“Nothing,” Gabriel whispered. “What am I supposed to say? ‘Yes, hello, I’m Gabriel the archangel and I’m very pleased to meet you, future vessel of Lucifer.’” Sam huffed with laughter, and the archangel rolled his eyes, stepping back from the window and heaving a sigh. His eyelids fluttered closed and he tucked his chin against his collarbone, crossing his arms over his chest defensively. “You don’t understand, Aziraphale. I . . .” He flexed his fingers, curling them into the fabric of that damned itchy uniform, “I can still remember how it felt to hold him, the day he was born. He was so warm and small and I . . . I knew instantly what he would become. I had never considered my place as God’s Messenger to be a curse until that moment. Because I knew that I‘d have to watch him suffer, a thousand times worse than Jesus, Merlin, or even Joan.” He shook his head biting his lip as he caught his brother’s sympathetic gaze on him, “I can’t do anything for him.”
Aziraphale smiled, the expression not quite reaching his eyes, “For now, I think it would be enough to simply stay as you are, Gabriel. Challenge him, test how far down his path as Lucifer’s chosen he is. Get to know this vessel, and maybe the answer of what he needs of you will become clear all on it’s own.”
At this, a small smirk crossed Gabriel’s features, “You want me to continue playing The Trickster?”
“It is what you do best.”
Sam watched as the archangel did just that. It would be a lie to say the archangel wasn’t nearly bursting out of his skin when Sam first approached him inside the memory, Michael’s vessel at his side. He readily agreed to show them up to the room the professor had occupied before he’d given him some personal divine judgment. Sam played the part of the innocent electrician a little too well if Gabriel said so himself, however.
“So how long have you been working here?” Past-Sam asked as he followed The Trickster up the stairs, eyes on him in a way that made Gabriel’s spine crawl and his wings shift in unease from their space hidden between dimensions. Current-Sam followed at a distance, remembering Gabriel’s joke about messing up the universe should he bump into his other self, and he wasn’t planning on taking any chances.
“I’ve been, uh, mopping this floor for six years or so now,” Gabriel said offhandedly, opening the door to the now empty office and motioning for them to step inside. His eyes caught the glint of metal as Past-Sam withdrew his EMF reader out from his coat, and the angel placed a look of oblivious curiosity on his face, “What’s that for?”
“Um, finding wires in the wall,” Past-Sam muttered, looking away quickly as though he was afraid Gabriel would recognize the device. Which he did, but he wasn’t stupid enough to say anything about it. Current-Sam smiled, mocking his own complete lack of subtlety back then.
“Don’t know why you’re wiring up this place though,” the Trickster said, trying his best to paint a picture of boredom on his features as he watched Past-Sam scan the walls diligently as though he really was looking for wires. It was amazing to Gabriel how much he’d grown. Not just physically, because that much was blatantly obvious. But emotionally as well. He’d checked in once or twice when the boys had first started hunting again a year and a half ago. Past-Sam’s eyes were clear again, free of the grief and anger that had clouded them for months.
“Why’s that?” Past-Sam asked, raising an eyebrow. Gabriel tried his best not to smirk at this. As if he didn’t know. Cute. Mentally he smacked himself, biting the inside of his cheek for thinking such a thing. Current-Sam watched the exchange and literally smacked himself at how much it looked like he was flirting. And if he thought about it, maybe he had been.
“The professor’s dead,” Gabriel replied mysteriously, “Jumped out that window right there,” he motioned towards it, eyes following the way the curtains fluttered away from the glass just so.
“Oh yeah?” Gabriel chewed forcefully on the inside of his cheek as Past-Sam turned those falsely innocent hazel-green eyes on him. Damn. He’d heard of the famous Puppy-Look but this was insane. “Did you see it?”
The Trickster snorted, “I was the one that found him.”
At this, Past-Sam’s expression changed from childlike-curiosity to genuinely intrigued, “Did you see him go into the office too?”
The angel shrugged, “Yeah, I did. I saw him go into the office with someone. It wasn’t the first time it had happened, so I didn’t think anything of it. I told the police about her, but I guess it was a dead end.” Of course it was, it wouldn’t be much of an illusion if there was solid evidence to leave behind. Not unless he left it purposefully.
Past-Sam tilted his head to the side, staring at him for a long moment before he spoke again, “So this building only has four floors, right? So there wouldn’t be a room 669?”
“No,” the archangel replied smoothly, unable to keep the slight smile from his face. The fools had bought his fake story he’d planted a few years back. “Why do you ask?”
“Er, no reason,” Past-Sam mumbled, looking mildly embarrassed. Current-Sam put his head in his hands and groaned. Oh good lord, he had been flirting. Dean was right, he was such a girl. The memory shifted again.
“You plan to let them kill you,” Aziraphale said slowly, as though he’d misheard his brother’s intentions.
“I plan to let them think they killed me,” Gabriel corrected with a frown, noticing the blonde’s unease. “It’ll give me time to relocate, maybe follow them for a bit.” Sam rested his chin in his hands as he listened to them talk, none of this being new information to him, and in general much less interesting to watch than his past self acting like a total moron.
Aziraphale cocked his head, blinking into the wind from his position on the windowsill of the deceased’s office. “You are truly worried about that vessel, aren’t you.”
The archangel narrowed his eyes, “I really couldn’t care less, actually.”
“You sensed it, didn’t you? What Azazel had done to that child,” Aziraphale started, pausing as confusion entered Gabriel’s gaze as he spoke, “You did not? Gabriel, just how distracted were you back there?”
“I wasn’t-” Gabriel started, offended that Aziraphale would think such of him.
The younger angel raised an eyebrow and smirked, “You weren’t checking out Sam Winchester’s ass?”
“I-uh . . .” The Trickster folded his arms over his chest with an annoyed scowl, but didn’t deny it. Which only made Aziraphale laugh, Sam echoing it. Now this was new information, highly worthy of later blackmail once they got out of this chain of memories.
“I don’t blame you, dear brother,” Aziraphale smiled. “But really, you did not realize at all what has already happened to the vessel? I suggest you take a closer look at him, and I’m not talking about his ass, you pervert.” He chuckled as Gabriel growled defensively. The world tilted and heaved, sending Sam tumbling into another recollection from just hours later.
The Trickster led the way up the stairs from the janitor’s locker room with slow steps. Sometimes he really loved his guise as the Norwegian god Loki, it was great for stress relief. One of the many things he’d done the night before, actually. He could feel Past-Sam’s presence behind him as the boys followed him up the stairs, but he dared not take a moment to turn and examine him too closely. “Sorry I’m dragging today boys, I had a long night.” He grabbed hold of the banister and swiveled around so that his chin rested on it and he was able to look down at Past-Sam, still on the flight a few inches lower. “Lotsa sex,” he grinned, wiggling his eyebrows just so and watching with amusement as the young man blushed profusely, “If you know what I mean.”
Current-Sam paled, remembering what it had felt like to be on the other end of those words and gaze, the prickling heat that had made it’s way through his body. Oh god, they’d both been flirting. Unconsciously, yes, but still.
“Hard not to,” Dean grumbled, and Gabriel merely smirked.
In those ten seconds he’d faced the youngest Winchester Gabriel had seen what Aziraphale had been referring to, and that was all he needed. Behind the hazel-green of Sam’s eyes roiled a spark of inky black, too hidden for mortal eyes to catch, but just enough for Gabriel to take note of. The child had drunken demon blood, though whether it was by force or his own free will, Gabriel couldn’t tell. Aziraphale had suggested that the demon Azazel had had a hand in it however.
Past-Sam, still looking noticeably flustered, something Current-Sam ignored pointedly, began to back away, muttering something like, “Oh, I forgot, um, something. In the car. Yeah, in the car. Be right back.” Gabriel tilted his head and nodded, pointedly leading Dean farther up the stairs to allow Past-Sam to make his fake retreat, and the memory dissolved.
The Impala rumbled off into the distance, it’s engine loud and clear from Gabriel’s position on the roof of Carter Hall, Current-Sam sitting unnoticed beside him. The angel bit into his candy bar and sighed, leaning back to catch sight of Aziraphale standing over him.
“That is the least subtle car on the face of the planet, you know,” he said offhandedly.
“That it is,” Aziraphale nodded, taking up a seat next to him, the side Sam wasn’t sitting on, and stretching out his wings visibly in the moonlight. Unlike Gabriel’s, they were a pure light gray, tinted on the edges with silver. “Have you seen what is to become of them in the near future, brother?” At this, Gabriel looked away, staring down at the ground far below them with a small shake of his head. This was answer enough. Aziraphale sighed deeply, “He will die within the year, Gabriel. And yet you won’t lift a finger.”
“If he dies then he will never become Lucifer’s vessel,” Gabriel replied, his throat tightening around the words. “It is a better fate.” With this, he glanced directly at Sam, who had been unnoticed for the greater part of this set of memories, and the Hunter swallowed. Would it have been better?
“If that is what you truly believe then you are more of a fool than I took you for,” Aziraphale said lowly, his eyes narrowing. “You act as though he is yours, and yet you do not follow through as though you mean it. You are a fool, Gabriel.” He snarled in frustration as the archangel didn’t reply, “Very well. You have no more use for me then, brother. I take my leave.” And with that, the angel was gone. Gabriel stared at the empty space for a long moment before he turned his gaze outwards once more, refusing to change his belief that there was nothing more he could do.
Sam leaned against the Trickster’s shoulder as they were left alone, looking out over the empty parking lot with a weight in his heart, closing his eyes as he felt the memory begin to fade around the edges, blending into the next.
Gabriel sat back on the stool that first morning in what would be one of many identical Tuesday mornings, glancing over his shoulder at the pair that had just entered the small diner with a surprised start. His guise for his current round of tricks was already firmly in place for the day, but he couldn’t help giving himself a once over in the reflection in the unused spoon beside his half eaten plate of pancakes overly doused in maple syrup. Making sure he looked nothing like he had over a year ago, he looked up once more, taking in the stock of the two Hunters seated at a booth beside the window.
Sam watched them too, himself and Dean from nearly four years ago, innocent compared to what they now were, bumping into each other as they walked, trying to make one another trip.
The archangel couldn’t help smiling to himself as Dean kicked back against the plush but well worn cushion of the booth, his eyes on the menu board above Gabriel’s head. Across from him, Past-Sam sat, his hands raised slightly as he tried to explain their newest case to his brother, who was obviously not listening in the slightest. Gabriel stuck a piece of pancake in his mouth and chewed, taking in every small detail.
Past-Sam had almost all but gotten rid of his bangs, sweeping what was left of them to the sides of his face, his hair in general over an inch longer than it had been since Gabriel had last been in his presence. Though his voice was stern as he lectured his brother on ordering items off the menu when he didn’t even know what they consisted of, his shoulders were slack with held back amusement, and a smile tugged at the corners of his lips. His dark green, hazel tinted eyes however flashed with hints of a grief, and Gabriel frowned, having to take a second look at Dean to understand why. Current-Sam didn’t need to, remembering all too well the turmoil of that year.
The older Winchester brother’s soul was marked, a timer that was slowly ticking down the days, hours, minutes, until it was pulled into the depths of Hell. Gabriel sighed softly to himself, tearing his gaze away with a shudder.
Just as the hands of time wound down on Dean’s life, so too did they on that of humanity in general. Dean being dragged down into Hell would be step one in the final countdown till the ultimate end.
Gabriel had seen what would happen, just as he was able to see all things a certain ways into the future that his brother’s didn’t keep closely guarded, and the plan for the vessels was well known amongst the garrisons by now. Glancing back, he took in the simmering darkness that roiled behind Past-Sam’s eyes, dulled immensely since their encounter at the college, since Azazel’s death, but there all the same. It would only take a drop or two of demon blood, just a taste, and that shadow would increase, like a light switch being turned on after waiting since it’s installation to activate. The archangel swallowed, closing his eyes in an effort to wipe the sight from his mind, to little avail.
Fate had already been carved out for the Winchesters, and all the pawns of destiny had been set in place, awaiting their orders to move. There was nothing that could be done.
The Trickster opened his eyes as the waitress dropped a bottle of hot sauce, splattering the ground with it contents orange-red and not too unsimilar to blood. Gabriel’s nose wrinkled and he raised his line of sight to the brothers again, taking in their expressions in that moment. They were carefree on the outside, smiling and laughing with each other as they always had, the inner sadness well concealed.
Sam watched, holding his breath, as the look of resignation in the Trickster’s eyes shifted to anger and determination instead.
No, the pawns were not all in place, Father be damned. Gabriel hadn’t lifted a finger when Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, believing it to be long written out fate. Words could always be erased, smudged, and rewritten with a different ending, just as with what had happened to Merlin and Arthur. No one would expect him to interfere, he was the knight, moving in from the side, unexpected and game changing no matter how small the act.
Gabriel snapped his fingers, the Winchesters taking no notice of the invisible shift of air and reality. If Past-Sam could see the future, even a faked one as Gabriel could create it, things might change. They would at the very least possess the potential for change. He would give Past-Sam the chance to glimpse the mindless thing he would become, and maybe, just maybe he could create a new path for the brothers. One that veered straight off that of what should have been unchangeable, and was ruled by nothing but free will and their own choices, for better or for worse.
Current-Sam shook his head, looking away as the memory ended like a freeze-frame in a movie, starting up again a heartbeat later. He didn’t want to see what happened next, not this. He had forgiven the archangel for it a thousand times over by now, but it still hurt to watch, to witness the hundreds of Tuesdays where fate never changed no matter what he’d done to try and change it.
Past-Sam was incapable of accepting the inevitable, especially when it came to his brother. Gabriel had watched for countless Tuesdays as the Hunter refused to give up, trying everything he could think of to stop Dean’s death, a task that was literally impossible as the Trickster could simply look into his mind and figure out an appropriate counter to whatever Past-Sam thought up that Tuesday.
He wasn’t surprised when Past-Sam caught him, after all he had changed his syrup preference on purpose, having long ago grown bored with the game. Still, it hurt to see the utter hatred in Past-Sam’s eyes as he was slammed against the chain-link fence, the Hunter’s hand pinning him there with a stake pressed to his throat. More than anything, it scared him. He wasn’t afraid for his life, Father no, that stake was nothing to him. But that dark glint that roiled in Past-Sam’s eyes, that scared him more than anything. It was demon blood still untapped in his veins and Lucifer’s touch all rolled into one, a darkness in his gaze that Gabriel felt was all too familiar.
So he let Past-Sam have the illusion that he was out of the time loop, watching from not far away as Dean Winchester died one last time and tipped Sam over the edge as he realized that this time there was no waking up.
“You're right. I was just screwing with you,” Gabriel drawled, shoving his hands in his pockets, “Pretty good, though, Sam. Smart. Let me tell you, whoever said Dean was the dysfunctional one has never seen you with a sharp object in your hands. Holy Full Metal Jacket,” The Trickster waggled his eyebrows in amusement.
“Bring him back . . .” Past-Sam didn’t even move. Gabriel had half expected to find a stake protruding from his chest by now, but the Hunter merely squared his shoulders and stared at the archangel in disguise.
Gabriel blinked, “Who, Dean? Didn't my girl send you flowers? Dean's dead. He ain't coming back. His soul's downstairs doing the hellfire rumba as we speak.” He shuffled his feet as if to demonstrate.
“Just take us back to that Tuesday—er, Wednesday—when it all started,” Past-Sam pleaded, so soft Gabriel could barely hear him. The archangel raised his eyes hesitantly, breath catching in his throat as he saw the tears welling in the younger Winchester’s eyes. “Please. We won't come after you, I swear,” Past-Sam whispered, taking a step closer, his hands held forward in surrender, palms facing up.
The Trickster shuddered, looking away again. He couldn’t do this anymore, hurting Past-Sam like this. And even though that darkness hadn’t faded from his eyes, he just couldn’t play this game anymore. It wasn’t worth it if he had to se that hopeless, desperate look in the human’s eyes. “You swear,” he said, his voice as cold as he could muster.
“Yes,” Past-Sam gasped, a spark of hope in his gaze. Gabriel wished that damned word had never been invented, the word that would one day seal the deal and allow Lucifer free reign of the Hunter’s body.
“I don’t’ know. Even if I could-”
“You can,” Past-Sam interrupted, hands clenched in the folds of his shirt as he stared at Gabriel, voice dripping with desperation.
“True,” Gabriel admitted, tilting his head to the side as he used aloud, “But that don't mean I should. Sam, there's a lesson here that I've been trying to drill into that freakish Cro-Magnon skull of yours.” You’re too codependent, too fragile and easily influenced.
Past-Sam stared, shocked, “Lesson? What lesson?”
“This obsession to save Dean? The way you two keep sacrificing yourselves for each other?” The Trickster bared his teeth, feeling his invisible wings flex behind him, “Nothing good comes out of it. Just blood and pain. Dean's your weakness. And the bad guys know it, too. It's gonna be the death of you, Sam.” That. That was what he never wanted to see, not again. And not by his brother’s hand. “Sometimes you just gotta let people go.”
“He’s my brother,” Past-Sam whispered, the tears literally almost spilling over from the corners of his eyes now. Gabriel just couldn’t take it.
The Trickster snorted, “Yup. And like it or not, this is what life's gonna be like without him.” With a revenge ethic and a shit ton of demon blood mixed it, and oh, maybe the begging of the freakin’ apocalypse.
“Please. Just-” Past-Sam’s voice wavered and Gabriel looked away, “-Please.”
“I swear, it's like talking to a brick wall. Okay, look. This all stopped being fun months ago. You're Travis Bickle in a skirt, pal. I'm over it.” He shoved his hands in his pockets, staring deliberately at the wall as if to make a point before his gaze flicked back to Past-Sam.
Past-Sam stiffened, “Meaning what?”
Gabriel frowned, “Meaning that’s for me to know and you to find out,” he snapped his fingers, watching as the world shifted away back to that first Wednesday over six months ago.
He was done with helping, Father be damned. Let things happen as written, he didn’t care anymore. If the world ended then so too would he.
Maybe then it wouldn’t hurt this bad to watch Past-Sam fall.
With that snap, the memory ended, and Gabriel collapsed, finding himself standing very suddenly on the concrete sidewalk outside of Elysian Fields Hotel. Sam crouched down at his side, placing a hand against the small of his back as the angel gulped down air, almost as though he’d been holding his breath through the whole exchange with Sam’s past self. “Sammy,” he gasped, head hanging between his shoulders as he breathed, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry . . .”
“I know,” Sam whispered as he rested his head against the archangel’s shoulder and sucking in a breath of his own. “I know.”
Gabriel lifted his head and gazed at the hotel before them before stiffening under the Hunter’s hands, “I can’t . . .”
Sam raised an eyebrow, casting the building a glance, realizing exactly where they were. “What happens if you die in a memory, Gabe?” he asked softly, fearing the answer.”
“I don’t know . . .”