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Part Two

He runs out of places to write, and carves the symbols smaller and smaller, each curling around into another until the floor is no longer smooth but rough with the careful furrows, and then he starts to carve into himself.

But his skin just heals over, so he has to cut deeper, deeper, deliberately peeling away first the skin, then the bloody strips of flesh, fat and muscle and everything in between, until he reaches the bones.

He tries to wash the blood off of them until they’re clean, pale and yellow, but as soon as he’s done it another narrow artery burrowing through them breaks, and he has to start all over again. Blood ruins it, he’s sure. Or perhaps it makes it more potent.

He’ll have to experiment.

He cuts away at himself until there’s nothing left except bone, and then they come, and still they touch him, and suck all the marrow away.

*

Sam pokes his nose out a few hours later, gingerly opening the door and peering around to find Gabriel hunched in the corner away from the leaky bit of roof, humming something low and eerie. “Um,” he whispers, trying not to startle the man and utterly failing—Gabriel’s head swings around with an abrupt cessation of song and a drawn-in hiss of breath. He looks up at Sam for a while, expressionless, and then turns back to looking out at the trees beyond the screen.

“Yes?” His bare foot is toeing the line of water creeping onto the deck—thankfully the rain is driving away from this side of the cabin, but it still manages to trickle through in places. A line of mucus drips down to his lip, and he wipes it away with a quick, angry jerk.

“I was just seeing if you wanted dinner.”

“Gruel?”

“Soup.”

“Chicken?”

“…The broth, anyway. There’s dumplings,” Sam offers, although they’re really just three frozen biscuits, chopped up, dumped in the soup and swollen with broth to the point of disintegration.

“Yeah. Sure.” He doesn’t actually move, though, except to crinkle up his nose and sneeze abortively.

Sam lingers in the doorway, watching him. “Uh—well, you can just come in when you want, then.”

“Fine.”

“Yeah.” A gust of wind pushes the rain harder, for a moment; Gabriel tenses slightly, and then sighs soundlessly.

“They did.”

“What?”

“The question you asked earlier. Yes. Sometimes. When it would have hurt them not to.”

“…Oh.”

Gabriel rocks forward to sit on his knees, then braces himself against the railing and stands. “I’ll do it.”

“You don’t have to—”

“Yes,” he interrupts, as he makes his way to the door, “I do,” and underneath the determination in his voice is a thin layer of fear.

*

He observes closely.

The man’s tied down, but he’s limp anyway, so the threads sewn through his wrists and ankles are hardly necessary. The little, curious insects poke at him, tickle him, but he doesn’t even squirm at their touch. He could be dead, except that his eyes are open, open and far too clear, nothing like the jelly-blank stare of a dead man. He doesn’t breathe, though. He doesn’t resist.

It seems like a good lesson, as lessons go.

A woman, a little bigger than the insects, walks along his leg, continues up his smooth stomach, his chest, climbs up the jut of his chin. When she steps on his mouth, it opens slightly, and she pauses, stomps down. A tooth cracks, and she smiles.

She ends up sitting above his eyes, staring down, but how does she tell if he’s looking at her?

Easily, it turns out. She simply stabs her pointed toe into the soft meat of his eye, and then he is no longer looking.

*

It’s a nondescript brown building. The door handle is slippery and hard to turn, and there’s a discordant jangle of bells when he does manage to get it open. It only takes a few extra seconds, but by that time Sam—standing behind—has already made several abortive movements forward as if to help. He doesn’t seem to want to get too close, though—even during the long and awkward car ride he’d avoided saying much, and he’s always trying to get Gabriel to talk. As if there were anything to say.

The carpet in the waiting room is a dull blue flecked with the occasional loop of purple. There are about forty purple bits for every square foot, except on one patch near the single long couch where the factory-perfect randomness seems to have failed and instead coughed up twice as much purple as everywhere else. The fake plant’s got purple in it, too, and suddenly everywhere he looks he sees it—the lettering on the pens attached to each colorful clipboard, every other narrow vertical stripe on Sam’s shirt, the shoelaces of the scrawny teenager who’s slumped with one hand on his girlfriend’s and the other furiously tapping away on his phone.

They wait. He counts nine jangles, except three of them are from the same person who had to go out and come back in again. The room had been about half full when they’d come in, but it’s filling up, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise when the man plops down in the chair next to him and opens a magazine with a rattle of paper. Gabriel twitches, though, and scoots away slightly before he realizes what he’s done. Sam looks over with his big sad eyes and furrowed brow, and Gabriel scowls, consciously relaxes. Taps his foot impatiently.

He’s thirsty, but the stupid teenager’s legs are five feet long and stretch diagonally across exactly where he’d have to step to reach the water cooler.

“Sullivan? Uh, Gabriel Sullivan?” The nurse is young and tired-looking, her makeup a little overdone—her lips are red and garish, eyeliner starkly black.

Gabriel’s foot stops tapping, and he swallows. “Uh, yeah. ‘S me.”

The nurse waits. “Well, if you’d like to follow me. For your exam.”

“Right. Yeah. Coming.” He stands, and Sam moves with him. The nurse—Kelly, her nametag says in cheerful lettering—steps between them, holds out a questioning hand.

“Him, too?” she asks, and Gabriel pauses.

“Oh, uh, yes. Yes.”

“Alright, come this way.” She leads them to a small examining room, where Gabriel cringes at the sight of the table and stirrups; she looks sympathetic.

“You can wait here,” she tells Sam, “Mr. Sullivan, we’ll need a urine sample, first. Bathroom’s this way, just pee into this cup and bring it back, okay?”

“Yeah. I can do that.” This won’t be so hard. Maybe.

Except that he momentarily can’t find the bathroom, can’t get the urine flowing, almost misses the damn cup, and by the time he’s heading back to the room he’s already trembling a little. Fuck. Stupid. The whole thing’s stupid, really, but Sam’s so—so earnest, like a horse that’s grown up to think you’re bigger than him and who just wants to please.

Kelly smiles at him, which is supposed to be reassuring, and all he can think is that she looks a bit like that woman they’d brought in. Day—seven hundred two? No. No, because the days are all wrong, anyway.

“We can get blood samples processed, too, but you’ll need to go across the street to get it taken. We’ll fill out a form for you, and the results will come in with the rest of the test. Wait here for the doctor; you’ll need to take your clothes off.”

The door closes sharply behind her, and Gabriel starts to pace the room. Not that there’s a lot of room to move, and Sam’s intent on standing in one corner, taking up too much room, still imitating a horse. The wait seems to take forever. He’s lost his sense of patience developed over the last two years, already, in just a few weeks. It’s like he changes all the time now, like some human, always shifting, always contrary.

When the door finally opens again, he jumps, doesn’t pay attention to where he’s going, and nearly crashes into the table. The doctor’s maybe fifty, average height, male, and it’s only then that Gabriel realizes he’s been hoping for a woman.

Another stupid human trait he’s picked up. Gender never mattered to him before.

“Mr. Sullivan?” he says, warmly, and it takes all Gabriel has just to nod and stand there. “My name’s Dr. Morgenstern. And—” he turns to regard Sam. “—you are?”

Sam blinks. “Uh. Sam. We just, uh, live together.”

“Ah. Alright—are you planning on staying in the room? Because I don’t—”

“Can he?” Gabriel asks, and he’s not really sure why. It’s not like the horse is—well, he’s calming, a bit, but he’s also not at all.

Morgenstern blinks, then nods. “If that would make you more comfortable.”

“Yeah.”

“Alright. So—says here you have broken ribs? Not taking anything for those?”

“Um. No. Yes. I have broken ribs, they’re healing up, I just—over-the-counter. Ibuprofen.”

“—Alright. Have you had an exam like this before?”

“No.”

He nods. “Alright.” Is that his catch phrase? He’s almost too friendly, nice fake smiles and big warm hands. He goes to wash them—the hands—dries them, applies gloves. “So, if you’d just like to start by removing your shirt, that’s alright—” hell “—I’ll be doing a general exam, checking over your skin for any discoloration or odd marks. I’ll take a look at your mouth, collect a swab, and then I’ll need you to remove your pants. Will that be alright?”

The edge of the table is digging into Gabriel’s palm where he’s gripping it. “Yes,” he says, automatically.

Morgenstern’s a little more patient than the nurse, but when Gabriel’s shown no sign of moving he gives another of his little twitchy smiles. “Your shirt? Sir, if there’s—”

“No, it’s fine!” He scrabbles at the buttons, uncoordinated, then snaps at Sam when he steps forward. “I can do it.” He does, eventually, shrugs the shirt off completely and stands there half-naked and shivering.

Morgenstern raises his gloved hands. “If you feel uncomfortable with anything—”

“It’s fine, just do it.”

“Alright.” He hates that word. Oh, how he hates that word. It’s not alright.

The doctor has to move around to the side of the table, because Gabriel’s not going anywhere, and though he barely skims his hands over Gabriel’s skin a sweat breaks out all over it.

“Hold out your hands?”

He does, unclamping from the table. There’s an angry red mark on his right palm from clutching at it, and he stares at it as Morgenstern lets him lower them and steps around to his back.

He jumps out of his skin when the doctor brushes his hair aside, and Sam’s there before he can blink, before the doctor can step away.

“Mr. Sullivan—”

“Sorry,” he says, now examining the plaid pattern of Sam’s shirt, “I just—didn’t expect that. It’s fine. Keep going.”

The fingers are an even lighter touch, and the doctor comes back around to the front, pronounces his skin to be healthy. “That’s part one done! Not too bad, alright, now I just need to take a look at your mouth, check inside for anything. Alright?”

“Yes.”

Sam’s hands are moving around awkwardly, as if he’s not sure whether to touch Gabriel or not. Morgenstern clears his throat.

“Mr.—Sam. Would you care to move aside?”

“Oh! Oh, yeah. Sorry. I’ll just—get out of your way.”

“Thank you.” He has a light, one of those tongue depressors—just a strip of wood, and Gabriel doesn’t know why it seems so sinister. “Say ah.”

He says ah. The light flicks around inside his mouth, the depressor enters and he tenses up his neck muscles, breathes out through his nose. Sam’s at his side, now, still awkward—Gabriel can feel his body heat, Morgenstern’s body heat, the heat from the fluorescent lights, from the reflection of it on the table, from the light still clawing its way through his mouth, from—

“Gabriel. Gabriel, hey.” Sam’s face swims in front of him, and he blinks.

“You can close your mouth now,” the doctor tells him, brow furrowed. “Mr. Sullivan, the next part is difficult for a lot of people, alright? And if you need time to—”

“Just get it over with,” Gabriel snaps. “Please.

“I’m not sure that—”

“Can you or can you not do it quickly and get it done?” His voice rises in pitch and volume, and Morgenstern flinches back a little.

“—Yes. I’ll—alright. I have to ask you to remove the rest of your clothing, then.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

He strips as quickly as he can, this time, leaving himself even colder than before now that the sudden burst of heat has gone. His feet are sweating, though. He rolls his toes, wipes the sole of his left foot on his right calf and almost misses.

“If at any point you decide you need to stop—”

“Yes, yes, okay,” and he’s of course aware that his voice is still high-pitched, “thank you, do it, don’t tell me about it, just do it.”

The doctor bites his tongue, kneels, coaxes Gabriel’s feet apart and lifts his hands up into Gabriel’s groin. Gabriel freezes. Just a doctor. Just an exam. Stupid exam, but Sam’s still there watching with those big eyes, still looking uncomfortable. He stares straight ahead, instead, past Sam, at the shade over the small glass window in the door. There are twenty-one sections, eighty little holes punched into the plastic with the thread running through, two crooked ends where someone bent it and it never bent back.

Sam’s eyes keep flicking up and down, between Gabriel’s face and Gabriel’s crotch, until they drift away to the table as he worries his lip between his teeth.

“Sir? Sir?” Gabriel looks down. “Can I ask you if you would prefer to retract the foreskin yourself—”

His mouth refuses to cooperate for a few seconds, but something in his face obviously makes the doctor stop talking. “Just do it,” he finally spits out.

“Alright,” and so help him if he hears that word again he might just shatter.

At the hand on his penis he panics, shoves away, completely irrational and more than a little insane.

“I can’t do this,” Morgenstern says, standing, “maybe it would be better if you left, uh, Sam, but—”

“No,” Gabriel whines, “I’m sorry. Keep him here. I need to keep—I’m sorry.”

The doctor grimaces. “Don’t apologize, it happens. Are you sure—?”

“Yes.”

He doesn’t quite know how he makes it through that part. Pressed to remember it later, actually, he can’t, really, as if the experience were something that happened a long time ago and maybe to someone else. But the doctor’s stripping off his gloves and replacing them, urging him to sit up on the table, put his feet in the stirrups, and that’s the point at which he really blacks out.

Sam’s there when it’s over, wincing and rubbing his hand like a new father. Gabriel scrambles off the table with the doctor still giving him strange looks and collects his clothes. When Morgenstern beckons Sam outside, he’s given the chance to be alone.

The clothes he’s holding are similar to the ones he’d worn before. On and off, on and off, constantly being replaced, nothing ever really changing. He should put them on again. But then he’ll just have to take them off, on and off…

Sam knocks, walks into the room, blinks. His right hand is full of pamphlets in tastefully muted colors. “Um. Do you—need help?”

That snaps Gabriel out of it. He shakes his head, dresses. Goes across the street to the lab. Blood work isn’t so bad. Nothing wrong with a little blood—it’s healthy, really.

*

He’s blind and mute and deaf, but he can still feel them running their hands up and down his body (his body, not him), clammy and curious and cold. They scratch him gently with their nails, tug at his hair until strands come away with little pricks of pain. They open his unseeing eyes and press across the tissue there, curl fingers into his mouth and stretch his cheeks into a grotesque smile, pull his limbs apart so that he sprawls open and empty across the floor.

They whisper things to him, though he can’t understand, only feel the soft brush of air against his ears, or in the cavern of his mouth when they kiss him wide and sloppy.

*

“I told you so,” Gabriel crows as he slams the phone down, “nothing.”

Sam winces, then smiles awkwardly. “Uh, good. That's great, then.”

He crosses his arms and glares. “What, that's all? No sorry I made you go get poked and prodded and probed, here's some chocolate?”

“Look, Gabriel, we couldn't have known without the tests.”

“I knew!”

“Not rea- okay, okay, fine,” because he shouldn't pick fights with the man, not again, “I'm sorry.”

Gabriel nods. “Thank you. And?”

“…Uh.” Gabriel's eyebrows rise expectantly, and what else does Sam have to be sorry for? He'd thought they'd gotten over the pamphlets after the thing yesterday (“Oh, no, Sammy, no problem, just reading about how my experience doesn't make me less of a man. Or gay. Bet you're a real expert on this stuff by now, eh?” and Lucifer had laughed at that and patted Gabriel on the head and made obscene gestures at Sam behind his back, and then Gabriel had crumpled up the papers and thrown them away and bitched about Sam and his mothering tendencies for three hours.) Sam's pretty sure they haven't left anything else out that might have set him off—on the one hand, now Gabriel's actually talking, and on the other he hasn't said anything nice since telling the nurse he wanted Sam in there with him.

“I'm really sorry?” Sam tries, and Gabriel rolls his eyes.

“Can't even follow the script. Second clause.”

Oh. “…I'm not giving you chocolate.”

Gabriel pouts and slouches against the counter. “I know you've got it somewhere. Singer bought some last week. Probably just to taunt me,” he says accusingly.

“It hasn't even been a month yet. No sugars. You could get really sick.”

Gabriel shrugs. “I am really sick.”

“You could die.”

Another shrug. “Medical inaccuracies aside—I can't die.”

“You don't know that.”

“Well, then, let's test it out.”

“No.”

“Sam…”

“I don't care how much of a death wish you have, you're sticking to the diet. Gabriel, you can't even stomach undiluted orange juice.”

“Because it's nasty. And acidic. And I had a death wish nine-hundred and eighty-four days ago. If I wanted to kill myself now, I'd just use Raphael's sword, which you haven't hidden from me and is fact currently on the third bookshelf.”

Sam glances over involuntarily at the chest by the door, because he could have sworn he had hidden it and it was in there. When he looks back over at Gabriel, of course, the man’s smirking. “Or there,” he says, and pushes off the counter to strut to the chest and rifle through its contents. “Never play poker, Sammy.” He comes up with the blade, holding it horizontally in front of his face.

“Gabriel—”

“Don’t get your panties in a twist.” He runs one finger down its length, and his expression pinches off with a frown. “How’d you get it, anyway?”

“…Cas killed him. Uh. Her.”

“And you shopped around for the leftover pieces like teenagers the day after Halloween. Don’t.” He holds the sword up between them after Sam flinches and before he can open his mouth, and twists his mouth bitterly. “It’s just a piece of metal,” and it sounds like he’s reminding himself, “It’s got no loyalty to anything.” He sets it down abruptly on the lid of the chest, and stalks past Sam to his pile of blankets, holding his arms out wide. “See? No death wish.”

Sam’s not quite sure that he believes him.

*

They had come before.

This was unimportant, though, because they were not favored, and therefore they would lose, ancient though they might be. One by one, gone, locked away, diminished. Beating useless hands against the walls of their cages.

But he is free, so why sympathize?

*

The knock comes when they’re all gathered in the living room—Bobby and Sam at the table, Dean sprawled out on the couch, Gabriel in his little nest of blankets and papers by the nice warm fire—and they all look up as if directed in unison. “Who’s that?” Dean asks, still flipping through channels, but sitting up and reaching for the pistol conveniently located on the table beside him.

“Dunno,” Bobby says, “let’s see,” gun of his own stashed not-so-subtly by his waist.

He opens the door, blinks at the guy standing there. “Yes?”

“Hi,” he says, sharp little grin under green eyes. “Good to see you.”

“Do I know you?”

“Nah,” he says, “but I know you. And—” he looks around and spreads his arms theatrically “—it looks like I got all three here. Plus an extra! It’s like a bad deal at the drugstore. Buy three get one free, am I right?”

Bobby’s ready when the punch comes, but he’s entirely unprepared for the strength behind it, and is sent sprawling on the floor. The guy’s grin widens as Sam comes rushing forward, knocking him aside easily and slamming the door.

“Name’s Chet, by the way. Sort of. Not really? This guy’s named Chet, anyway.”

“Christo,” Sam spits out, scrambling up, and Chet laughs.

“Heh, not so much. Damn, those things are nasty, though. Taste like puke and sulfur. Little maggots.” The gunshot echoes through the cabin, and the guy barely moves, but a line of black oozes down from his shoulder. “Nice try, Dean. Not a very good shot, though, are you? I mean, I’d aim for the head.”

Gabriel’s frozen where he sits as the scene plays out, clutching his pen as if it would help him somehow. He’s acutely aware of his headache, of the cuffs around his wrists, of his utter helplessness as Chet slams Dean back into the table by the couch, kicks Bobby into the sink, lifts Sam up by the throat and—opens his mouth, long sharp teeth ringing a gullet that seems to stretch on forever.

Fear opens a pit in Gabriel’s stomach even as he realizes what Chet is, and he’s suddenly, intensely cold. Electricity sparks through his nerves, and yet when he speaks it’s almost entirely calm. “Hey,” he says, stupidly, reaching back across time to awkwardly shape the words of a language already old when he was created. “Big mouth. You Thing One or Thing Two? Nah, the younger one. Too ugly to be one of your brothers. Though I never could tell you nasty primitive excuses for parasites apart.”

Chet drops Sam, leaves him gasping on the floor, and snaps his gaping mouth closed.

“Who the fuck are you?” he smirks, in the same dead language that has the three humans utterly confused, “some cute little scholar? Little scrawny for my taste, but you take what you can get, right? I bet you’ll go down well with a bit of steak sauce. Or cheese—everything goes well with cheese.”

He stalks towards Gabriel, licking his lips. “Did you want to get eaten first, is that it? ‘Cause I can do that. Easy-peasy.”

“Sure you can,” Gabriel replies, clutching his black marker and an empty, worn manila envelope as he stands. Edging around so that his back’s not to the fire, he continues, “If you really feel like it. I mean, we’ll probably be your last meal, yeah? Dumb guy like you, I bet you’re next on big brother’s menu.” Not that he knows that the thing’s not alone. Or that it hasn’t eaten its siblings already.

“Glad you’re up for it,” Chet shrugs, “you think some human throwing insults is gonna faze me, little guy?”

“Didn’t really hope it would,” Gabriel says, “but it did get your attention.”

Raphael’s sword doesn’t kill him—or inconvenience him for very long, really, considering it’s being wielded by Sam—but it does hurt him, just a little, and he howls and curses and knocks Sam back into the wall. He’s managed to keep a hold on the blade, though, which is definitely a good thing considering the intensely pissed-off Leviathan—and Leviathans? What the hell, Winchesters?—coming for him now.

Gabriel spins around to push the envelope against the wall, hesitates for only a moment before he draws long-unneeded lines across the yellow in thick black ink. And hell, he hopes he got it right, because once he closes the circle he’s already sprinting for Chet’s back. This time, he doesn’t trip—not that he’d necessarily been expecting to, but his track record still isn’t quite ninety-nine percent—and he slams with all the basically irrelevant force of his body weight into the monster. Sam’s slashing at the thing, and Dean and Bobby hang on it like insignificant barnacles on a whale—it’s got its hands around Sam’s throat, rapidly choking the life away.

Gabriel cups the paper in one hand and presses it against the bare skin on the back of Chet’s neck.

The Leviathan screams, a true shriek of pain, dropping Sam and allowing him to drive the blade up into his chest. His mouth opens and closes, going from tight-closed lips to human mouth to immense thing in seconds, and he bucks at Gabriel’s contact, kicks Sam away again, shakes Dean and Bobby off. And Gabriel’s nowhere near strong enough to keep hanging on, so he’s thrown too, landing on the floor at Chet’s feet.

Chet’s grimacing and panting out slurred curses. He pulls out the blade, flings it to the side, and whirls sharply around to regard Gabriel’s prone form. “Not just a little scholar, are we?” he snarls, “I’m gonna kill you slowly,” and he advances as Gabriel scuttles away slantwise, crouching behind the couch and still grasping the marker. His palms are sweaty, and he feels almost sick with adrenaline as he pushes himself up to stand.

Fuck this; he’s facing a monster he thought they’d locked away eons ago with no grace, a headache, three broken ribs, and a fucking Sharpie. The toxic smell of burnt Leviathan sits heavily upon his tongue, ratchets up the headache until all he wants to do is sit back down and surrender. Close his eyes and let them do whatever they want to his body (it’s not like it’s his, really, it’s not like they can actually touch him); if he survives, good—if he dies, better. At least it will be done with. He counts the days, but what good does it do, really?

And then the shrill sound in his ears snaps, and everything blinks back into sharp, hyper-focused reality. Because Dean’s lying bruised and sluggish on the floor by the television where Maribel just found out she was pregnant right before the weekend break (Manuel or Gustavo’s child? find out Monday), crotchety old Bobby Singer’s bleeding from the gash on his head where he banged against the counter (hours chopping up potatoes, bananas, carrots), earnest little Sammy’s struggling to take in enough air to stand, fingers reaching desperately for Gabriel’s dead brother’s sword. The analogy doesn’t work. Gabriel’s not the only one about to become a chew toy; Gabriel has no right to sit down and give up.

Which is what he figures later (privately) is what he was thinking, but at the time he didn’t really have much time to think it. The important thing, though, is that he doesn’t collapse into boneless submission, and his desperate lunge over the couch isn’t out of some half-assed impulse to flee out the door of the cabin. He almost faceplants, scrambles awkwardly to grab the discarded paper as Chet catches up with him and grabs triumphantly at his throat. He kicks out uselessly, left hand trying to shove the sigils in Chet’s face, right hand flopping around searching blindly for Raphael’s sword, eyes bulging wide as his trachea starts to compress and shut out his air.

Someone pushes the blade into his hand just as the envelope reaches its mark and Chet flinches back momentarily, and he plunges it through the paper into the Leviathan’s neck.

The monster shudders, sparks, and collapses, lying nearly motionless amid a cloud of noxious smell sizzling up from the place where the black sigils touch its skin. It’s still breathing, still functioning—still twitching a little—but its consciousness is caught somewhere between the holy blade and the crumpled envelope that’s pinned onto it like some sort of bizarre collar.

He’s actually a little surprised that that worked, but he’s not complaining. About that, anyway.

As soon as he gets his voice back and black spots quit blooming in his vision, he sits up, wincing at the pain in his ribs that he suddenly notices rather sharply again. He takes a couple good, deep breaths, looks around at the three humans slowly coming to their feet, and proceeds to curse at them nonstop for several minutes.

He’s pretty sure Sam and Bobby caught some of the Latin and Greek, but judging from the blank looks on their faces the rest of it flew happily over their heads. (Dean’s blank look is basically par for the course. Which may be somewhat unfair, but there’s something else here that’s much less fair.)

He finishes his tirade, pauses, looks back down at the prone monster, and then (with so much restraint) says, “Leviathan.”

He nods to himself, taking in the absolute mess that they’ve made of the room, the ever-increasing pains and aches he’s slowly beginning to feel.

Then he uses English. “You stupid sons-of-bitches. You slimy, pink excuses for two-footed donkeys, you miserable masses of inbred, poorly mutated bacteria, you—” and while they may understand him, it’s not actually as satisfying, so he stops. His gaze settles on Sam. “—how the ever-loving fuck did you manage to piss off a Leviathan?

“It wasn’t me this time—”

Gabriel’s eyes narrow. “Somebody going around opening Purgatory—I assume that’s how it got out? Something that profoundly idiotic has to be connected with you two morons…oh, shit. I think I know this story. Castiel or Raphael?”

They all flinch, slightly. “…Cas,” Dean says.

“So that’s how he kicked it?”

“Yeah,” he mutters, looking suddenly very tired. “Yeah, they just—possessed him.”

Gabriel frowns. “If he was just possessed…?”

Dean’s eyes shift from staring at Chet to meet Gabriel’s. “They said he was dead.”

He doesn’t contest it. “…Poor fucker. And I get to clean up the mess. Y’know, I thought the Talmud would be just as much bull as Revelations by the time you lot were done screwing around with all the shit you could lay your hands on. I mean, it’s not even prophecy. I want—hell.” He levers himself to his feet. “I want chocolate. A lot of chocolate. And then we’re going to tie this fucker up, and see how much he knows, and see how much they know, and then we’re going to shove their asses all the way to Purgatory where they belong. Got it? Ow.” He makes a face. “Fucking ribs.”

He’s allowed one square, per Bobby’s constantly over-cautious orders, and so he doesn’t actually bite it—just holds it in one hand, lets it melt onto his fingers, then transfers it to the other and licks the melted bit off his skin. It’s rich and dark and lovely, a taste so much more intense in his semi-human state—just as every sensation is so much more intense when he doesn’t have the option to change it. Doesn’t quite make up for the fact that he’s probably set himself back a couple weeks on his ribs, though, and honestly he feels a bit like a dog. Says as much; “So I fetch the duck and get a treat?”

Bobby just snorts. “Don’t be stupid. Got sick of your whining. And I figure if you’re well enough to beat up Mr. Tall-Black-and-Slimy, you’re well enough to eat a little more.”

Gabriel’s perfectly content not to comment on the man’s faulty logic, if it gets him chocolate.

“So,” he says a few minutes later, gazing forlornly at his licked-clean fingers, “no chance of another?”

“Nope.”

Gabriel puffs out his cheeks in a wide pout, then sighs, right before Sam comes trailing Dean through the door to the basement. “He’s all inked up,” Dean says, “chained, too, and we took the sword out and he didn’t wake up, so—I figure we wait, right?”

“Sounds about right,” Bobby nods. “And lay low for a bit, until we find out if the rest of them know we’re here.”

“Great,” Dean says, “who’s up for dinner?”

*

There’s something different.

It’s not that he’d fallen asleep in front of the fire, or that he’s woken up there, with the pale sunlight filtering through the windows and Dean snoring intermittently on the couch. It’s not that it’s past dawn and they’re all still not out of bed—it happens occasionally, despite the odd hours they (Bobby especially) tend to keep. It’s definitely not the piles of dirty dishes stacked by the sink waiting for someone to get tired of them sitting there and clean up.

He lies there for several long minutes, considering. He wiggles his toes—no change there—stretches out his calves and thighs, which ache slightly from the beating he’d taken the evening before. When he twists his torso, his ribs twinge; he still hears his heart beating a little too loudly. His lips are as dry as they always are when he wakes up, and he has to curl his neck down and around to relieve a slight crick.

Something shifts over to his right, and he looks over. Sam’s curled up awkwardly on the lower bunk bed, hair mussed and eyes just opening, and he stops moving when he meets Gabriel’s eyes. They blink at each other for a long moment, and that’s when Gabriel realizes.

His head doesn’t hurt.

Not even the echo of a pang somewhere deep behind his forehead, not even the light constant pressure that persists even on his best days, not even the buzzing whine that isn’t exactly pain but still somehow digs in and muddles his thoughts. He feels downright divine, and at the epiphany he smiles.

Sam probably thinks he’s smiling at him, and curls the edge of his mouth up too—and, Gabriel figures, why shouldn’t the smile be for them both? “Morning,” he murmurs, and Sam smiles a little wider, swings his over-long legs off the bed so that he’s sitting up and looking down.

“Morning,” he replies, then stands, takes the few steps over until he’s crouching by Gabriel’s head. He holds out a hand.

Gabriel takes it, and sets his knees under him before he lets Sam heft him up to standing. The blankets fall away and twist around his feet, and he steps delicately out of them, shivering as his sole lands on the chilly cement floor. Sam grips his hand a little tighter, and he tenses only slightly before relaxing into the hold.

“You alright?” Sam asks, sincere and sweet as ever, and Gabriel looks over the dusty cabin, the broken chairs still not cleared away, over Dean’s rumpled head just stirring on the couch; he looks over his scattered piles of paper, his nest of old, flat pillows and scratchy wool blankets; he looks over his cold feet, his aching legs, his wrists still trapped in unforgiving metal; he overlooks them all.

“You know,” he says, as the dim winter sunlight moves to slant across his vision, “I think I will be.


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mistalagan

March 2012

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