Title: Don't Let Me Get Too Deep
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Gabriel, Dean/OC, Sam/Castiel, Michael, Lucifer
Warning(s): Adult language, torture and abuse, grace-bonding, suicidal thinking, alcohol abuse, minor blood and gore, references to sex, heavy angst
Word Count: 79355
Summary: After Gabriel's sacrifice, Dean can't stop thinking or dreaming about him. When a hunt goes wrong, the archangel reveals himself not only to be alive, but also with the startling news that Dean is his charge. As if that weren't enough, he claims that he accidentally grace-bonded with Dean while saving his life. It must be an accident too, because Dean knows there's no way Gabriel would want anything to do with him if he had his own way. Full of self-loathing and guilt, Dean spends the next several months denying his complex relationship with Gabriel. Yet even when Dean accepts the archangel as both his guardian and his bond-mate, there are some who will do anything to dissect their bond and others who will stop at nothing to rip them apart in order to kick-start the apocalypse.
A/N: This was written for Debriel Mini Bang. I have been wanting to write for this bang for years now because Debriel is my OTP, but it wasn't until this year that I finally got up the guts to sign up. I amazed myself for not only sticking with it, but for writing a story that's over 70,000 words. I am so thrilled that I was able to take part and even more thrilled with how it all turned out.
The beautiful art, the cover art being just one piece, was made by the amazing uke-sama; please go check out her journal to give the pieces some love. I also could not have done it without my awesome beta, necrora, whose dedication really stunned me and who I cannot thank enough for all their help.
The story title comes from the song 'What I Am' by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. I also created a playlist with all the songs featured in the chapters, and the link is on my profile.
Chapter One: Gone Away Again
Soundtrack: Chapter title and lyrics are from Ashes of Soma's 'Behind the 8-Ball.'
~What is this you came to see?
What would I be in your eyes?
Tell me what you think of me~
Come back to me, I'll be better this time around.
It's funny how he misses someone he never thought he cared about in the first place.
Dean taps his fingers on the wheel to try to distract himself, even though virtually nothing could distract him. He shouldn't be thinking about him, and he's trying to deny that he is but he's not successful so far. Sam suspects something, and although it would be a far stretch for him to guess where his older brother's currently driving to, the sympathetic and slightly pained look always lingering on his face makes Dean think that maybe he does know, right at this very minute, ready to tackle Dean about it the very moment he let's his guard down.
As if Sam can tell him how he feels, that it's okay to be feeling whatever the hell he's feeling.
It's really not his fault that he's probably been mumbling the archangel's name in his sleep, that he loses track of time when he's in the shower and doesn't remember anything past thinking about Gabriel dying. His fingernails dig into the tile wall, slipping on the long gone cold water, trying to pull himself together, and Sam shouts at him from the other side of the door, asking whether he's okay.
It's all he can do not to completely lose it, not to flat out tell Sam that all he ever thinks about anymore is Gabriel and how the only person he can blame is himself. That the only thing he can regret is not stopping him, not telling him that he meant more to Dean than Dean had realized. He wants to scream at Sam that yes, he misses Gabriel, and to just lay off him already.
He opens his mouth though, and no words come out other than 'I'm fine' and 'lemme alone, alright?'
Dean turns the radio up louder, trying to drown out his thoughts with Metallica. Sam's not with him for this, but there's a full bottle of Jack Daniels on the seat beside him and that should be enough, yet somehow he can't bring himself to reach over and grasp onto it or look at it like the lifeline it is on a daily basis.
There's hope on the long, winding road before him, he can see it as palpably as the hot, summer sun partially blinding him on the left side. He'll use that as a lifeline right now, not booze.
The hotel has been hard to track down, but if Dean listens to his instincts it still exists. It's not the way it was before though, the one he and Sam had stumbled upon that night, its uncomfortable silence and out of place lavishness not putting him on edge until after his stomach was filled. It's a wreck now, sun filtering in through the cracked windows and dust floating around thickly, so thick it seems to suck all the oxygen out of the air and cause him to cough. He picks his way through the bare remains, glass crunching under his boots and hands turning the doorknobs slowly, walking into empty rooms with nothing less than disappointment.
He won't find him here, he already knows that. Dean doesn't even know why he wants to see him, but he's here nonetheless and there has to be some sort of decent and not completely ridiculous explanation. It would be just like Gabriel to pop out from behind one of these doors and grab his attention, but the longer Dean remains here the clearer it becomes that that isn't going to happen.
Dean doesn't know whether to breathe a sigh of relief or curse at his involvement in the archangel's death. Sure, Gabriel will never be able to torment Sam again, never be able to kill him for kicks again, but Gabriel not being here - in his life - seems wrong somehow.
"Come on, Gabriel!" He's already been here for too long, long enough for darkness to fall around him and for him to be sure of one thing and one thing alone.
Gabriel really is gone for good.
He gets back in his baby and tries not to slam the door shut behind him, only partially succeeding. He's angry at himself, at driving all the way out to the middle of nowhere when he knew full well there would be nothing left. But he's even angrier at Gabriel for not humoring him, for having to go and die without saying a proper goodbye, for getting Dean's hopes up back then - all those devious winks and Gabriel always staring at him at completely inappropriate moments and of course at incredibly inappropriate areas of his body, as if trying to get a rise out of him - and shattering them completely tonight.
The hunter's completely and utterly defeated on the drive back to their current shitty motel. He doesn't want to face Sam but he has no choice, no choice but to look him in the eye and tell him the truth before Sam throws it in his face. He's been doing this for months and he can't do it anymore, not on just three hours of restless sleep for as long as he can remember, and too many hunts and barely enough food and far too many occasions of Sam's puppy dog eyes, pleading him to let him in.
He parks on the side of the road for the night, reaches across the seat and grasps the bottle, taking a long drink out of it before settling it between his legs. What the hell, there's no reason for him not to drink now.
I'm never coming back. Somehow, you always knew that.
Sam is sitting in a chair by the door in a darkened room when he gets back. Dean can just about make out his lowered head and hunched shoulders in the moonlight before Dean flips the lights on, putting the bottle on the table and pushing it towards Sam.
His little brother just stares at it for a few seconds before looking up at him. "Where'd you go, Dean?"
His voice is so soft that Dean can barely hear him, and he finds pretty quickly that he can't face him like this, can't possibly do this tonight. He pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs, licking his lips a little nervously. "Nowhere, Sam. Just went for a drive."
"For four hours?" Sam looks angry for a split second before he clears his face of any trace of anger and glances up at Dean, begging him again to just open up, as if his brother ever has. "We promised to stop hiding things from one another, and you're hiding something from me, Dean. I know you are."
"What do you want me to tell you, Sam? That yes, I've been lying to you? Well, so did you once upon a time when you decided to run around behind my back with that demon skank."
Sam throws him a half hurt and half furious look before he stands up and gets right into Dean's personal space. "Look... I don't want to argue, Dean. I just want you to let me help you." Dean licks his lips again, trying to back away from Sam's unyielding body but finding he only has the wall behind him. He should have known better than to slide anything past his incredibly nosy little brother. "Dean," Sam starts, bending down in order to grab Dean's attention and look in his eyes. He smiles a little, trying to reassure him as if he's seriously scared Dean will bolt when he doesn't even think he'll be able to get around Sam. He hates this, wonders why the hell he even got out of bed this morning with the stupid fucking notion to go back to Elysian Fields and find a Gabriel who's nothing but long gone. "Is it Gabriel? Is that whom the nightmares are about?"
"Lemme alone," Dean breathes out, trying not to make it sound so desperate. Sam's voice is incredibly gentle, but he doesn't deserve it. He deserves Sam getting angry at him, Sam hitting him so hard he can't draw a decent breath, Sam telling him how stupid and worthless he is.
"No," Sam says, his massive hands holding Dean's arms in place, continuing to look at him and not letting Dean pull away in any way, shape or form. He's screwed. "Tell me the truth, Dean. You've been saying his name in your sleep and in the shower for weeks now." He places one hand under Dean's chin and tips his head up, smiling again, "There's nothing to be ashamed of."
"You don't know anything about it, Sam."
"Then tell me," Sam pushes. "You've been so out of it lately, just tell me." Dean can't deny that; he hasn't had his head in the game for research or hunting lately, leaving much of it to Sam. He just can't focus after what's happened, not even on preventing the impending end of life as they know it.
"We don't have time to worry about this shit. Not with the apocalypse brewing."
"We'll make time, Dean."
"Okay, alright," Dean gives in. "It's Gabriel, that what you wanted to hear?" With that, Sam finally backs away and allows Dean enough space to breathe. Dean sits down wearily and reaches for the bottle, only to have it be snatched away from him to find its way into Sam's paws. "Are you serious?"
"Not until you tell me more," Sam confirms and laughs when Dean sulks for a split second. "Come on, just give me something else and I'll let you drink yourself to death if you want."
"I just might have to after this," Dean admits, staring at the bottle longingly before sighing and giving in. "Okay, the nightmares have been pretty rough lately."
Sam's brows knit together to show his concern, "I've noticed." He pours a drink and slides it across the small, round table to his brother. Dean shakily takes it and swallows it down and he immediately feels better. When Sam pushes him again it's easier this time. "And they're of Gabriel dying, right?"
"Yeah," Dean breathes in and then breathes out, "over and over. I mean, hell, I didn't even see it and I don't even know if the dream's real. But it feels real."
Dean doesn't even realize Sam poured him another drink until he's wrapping Dean's fingers around the glass. "Go ahead, drink." Dean obeys, realizing this is the first time his brother has ever supported his habit. "You need it, dude," Sam explains, a look of understanding in his eyes and Sam nods at him, coaxing him to keep talking. He doesn't realize how utterly exhausted Dean is, how he doesn't think he can stay awake for another minute, let alone talk.
Sam asks hesitantly, "Did he...?"
Dean does a double take, "Hell no, Sam. He didn't do or say anything to me. I just feel something pulling at me, tugging so hard I feel like it's tearing me apart, and I can't figure it out."
"Maybe he really is back, maybe it's one of his tricks."
Dean suddenly feels very uneasy. He knows that Sam is trying to be helpful, trying to take some of the burden off of him, but so far it isn't working. "Maybe, but I don't think so, Sammy. Think this is something else."
The confusion on Sam's face is painful to take in. "Like what?"
The older Winchester sits down on the bed, dropping his head in his hands and trying not to notice how Sam gets up and follows him, dragging the bottle along with him. "Damned if I know. I just want the nightmares to stop."
There are a few seconds of silence before Sam sits down on the bed beside him, and there's an even longer pause until his baby brother wraps an arm around him. "It'll be okay, you'll see..." Dean shrugs out of his hold and gets up to pace, not looking at Sam because he knows Sam's more than just worried, maybe even a little panicked and Dean can't face that right now. "Whatever it is, we'll figure it out together."
That's what Dean's afraid of.
Don't get all choked up over me, kiddo. Believe me, I'm not worth it...
Dean wakes up and immediately puts an arm over his face, shielding it from the sunlight pouring in from the window. He groans loudly in protest, though after a few minutes pulls his arm away and takes a glance at the digital clock, big red numbers taunting him: 12:30. Sam let him sleep extra late, something that doesn't make sense. He should have been up hours ago, no excuses, but Sam walking in through the door with an armful of coffee and donuts has his mouth watering and his confusion dissipating.
Sam looks over at him and throws him a tired sorta smile, it's too nice and it's too gentle and it's setting him on edge. "Morning, dude. Slept late myself, so I'm not quite in the mood yet for lunch. There's a burger place down the street that we can check out later though." Dean nods, yawns and gets out of bed, grabbing a donut out of the box before he heads into the bathroom.
The shower is long and hot but Sam doesn't complain, he only looks up from his newspaper and stares at Dean carefully as he sits down and chows down on another donut. Dean pretends not to notice it until Sam puts the paper down, "Thought we'd go out today. See the sights, maybe do a little shopping considering most of my clothes are wrecked from that last hunt."
Dean sighs heavily, "Fine."
The reaction is instantaneous, "Dude, what's your problem? I'm trying to get your mind off of shit and you'd rather hang out in this dump?"
He was really tired of arguing and really sick of not having nice digs for a change, maybe a room without a lumpy bed or a shower that still had hot water left after Sam got to it first. Or maybe actually a room big enough that Sam couldn't purposely invade his space as often as he did. But no, Dean has never gotten what he wants and he never will. So no, he doesn't really want to stay here in this shitty room with Sam breathing down his neck in this incredibly confined space, but he also doesn't feel like freaking shopping either.
"No," he admits, "I'd rather hunt."
Sam gets up from the table and runs his hands through his overgrown hair at that in nothing less than complete frustration. As if Dean isn't frustrated and being driven up a wall enough by Gabriel haunting him in his sleep and Sam looking at him like he's the one experiencing it. "Well, I hate to break it to you, Dean, but you're really not in a fit state to hunt."
Dean growls at him, "I said fine so we'll go out okay?" Might as well do what Sam wants instead of sitting around the table and talking about how he feels and all that crap. So they leave and they hit the town, Dean feeling under the weather but determined to get his mind off of one particular archangel. It's over and done with now, after last night there's nothing left to say or do.
Barely two hours later and they've stumbled onto a case; it's a good thing too, cause Dean was just about to blow his brains out with Sam pushing him into fitting rooms with piles of clothes and rolling his eyes when he walks out with nothing. With every growl he gave Sam would back off, but he would just keep on pushing and pushing until Dean practically wanted to kiss the girl who gave them a few reasons to check out the town in more depth. Small towns usually had big secrets, Dean had come across plenty of those instances before, but this town seemed nothing like that. Sam had picked it out and it seemed quaint and homey more than anything, someplace he could maybe retire from the life someday.
Too bad he would never live to see that day, but he'd be damned if he didn't keep Sam alive long enough for Sam to live it.
Dean trails along with Sam to do research at the local library but inevitably separates to cover more ground, letting Sam question those who knew the deceased while he heads off to the remarkably small sheriff's office. Johnny, the deputy, is incredibly helpful and almost immediately makes Dean laugh. The two of them just hit it off immediately, so suddenly that Dean can hardly believe it. He spends far more time with the guy than he actually means to, and he only breaks away when his phone rings.
"Yeah. Victim's wife says he was having an affair. But I talked to Sal's supposed mistress and I don't know, Dean. It doesn't seem like they were together, just friends or something."
Whatever it was, Sal had to have something in common with the other two victims: middle-aged men who were killed in strange ways, one by being run over with his own car while he was drunk - allusion to drunk driving? - and the other trampled to death by a horde of angry and oddly, high, kids. Sal was found with head separated from body and a love note stapled to his chest. Maybe the connection was that all the guys were dicks?
Dean turns back to look at Johnny through the window, who seems to be caught up in his own work. He turns away again, "Well, some relationships are just weird. Maybe they only slept together once and the wife found out about it and thought it was a regular thing."
Sam thinks it over for so long that Dean thinks he's hesitating. "Yeah, maybe." Dean can sense that there's something his brother's not telling him, but Sam hurries up the conversation before Dean can get it out of him. "Okay, well, I'll look into the other victims, then call you later." The phone goes dead then, and Dean stands there wondering why the hell Sam would keep something from him.
He walks back to Johnny and stares at the article on the screen. "Maybe we've missed something," the deputy explains. Dean doesn't look at him, only continues to stare hard at the screen, pushing himself to keep on reading the text and searching the picture for one small detail. He runs it all over in his head and he still can't figure it out, and worse than that he keeps getting distracted but Sam's altogether too obvious hesitation.
Dean remains in the office of most of the night, picking Johnny's brain and continuing to go through the town's records, looking more carefully at the two deaths in the several months before the current one, convinced there must be some similarity between the three. His phone rings and Johnny's talking to him, trying to tell him something but Dean is running over too many things in his head, and he finally pulls his eyes away from the screen and leans over on the third ring.
His mouth opens, but darkness descends before he can say a word.
Gabriel... No, wait. I'm supposed to be calling for Sam. Yeah... Sammy?
Dean wakes up for the third time in twenty minutes in complete agony. His head is on fire and something is wrapped so tightly around his wrists that he wouldn't be surprised if the blood flow there hasn't been cut off completely, but he's probably just disoriented. He tries to steady his breathing, tries not to panic, but even though he's been in this position plenty of times it doesn't get any better than the last time and the time before that. It's so dark that he has no freaking idea where he is and what happened, he can't even remember anything past talking to Johnny.
"You were supposed to be out for another hour or so. Sorry about your head, man." Johnny. He should have known better, should have known by the way they instantly clicked, should have seen behind his fake smile and his willingness to help. The second Dean Winchester trusts anyone, he just gets stabbed in the back.
"So what?" Dean spits out a mouthful of blood and tries to move, but a wave of mind-numbing pain almost causes him to black out again. He stills instantly and accepts that he just won't be able to move his head to see him. He hates it, but there's not much he can do. "You been the one who's been killing those unfortunate bastards?"
"Me? Oh, you flatter me, Dean. Really, you do. I have to tell you, I took an instant liking to you the second you came in through my door and said hello. Your brother wasn't so easy, I guess you could say he saw right through me. Not that you're any less of a person, you're just... easier, I guess," he laughs and Dean seethes.
"If you did anything to him..."
"Relax." Johnny leans down and Dean can feel his breath on his cheek when he speaks. It's a wonder he can feel anything at this point considering how much pain he's in. Sammy - he's got to get out of here and get to Sammy. "Your brother's fine, currently out looking for you actually. Too bad he'll never find you."
The sole light bulb flickers in the room at that, and Dean has to force himself to stay still and not instinctively glance up. The deputy doesn't even seem to notice it and saunters slowly in front of Dean. "No, I didn't kill those bastards. Didn't have the guts to, then, but clearly someone did. And that's where you come in, Dean. You and your brother just had to stick your noses in where they don't belong. Those three deserved to die, especially Sal, always lying, always breaking his promises. All of them, cheating and stealing and just wanting more and more and more until they would hurt just about anyone to get what they wanted. It was their time."
Dean spits out another mouthful of blood and unfortunately can only stare at Johnny's legs in contempt, given it feels like his head is being split open by an ax if he tries to look up. "Killing is killing, asshole. People do bad things, they make mistakes, but it doesn't mean they deserve to die. Who are you, who is anyone to decide when a person lives and when a person dies?"
"Justifying your own actions now, huh? Cause isn't that what you do, decide who needs to be killed and then go dish it out to them? You're no better, Dean. You and your kind think they're so self-righteous, think you're better just cause you have the power to take a life. Why do you deserve to live, given all the mistakes you've made, all the innocent people you've dragged into your life and gotten killed?" Dean swallows hard at that, he doesn't want to die like this, doesn't want to die in here with this asshole. "I thought you were different, but hunters need to be put down just like Sal and the others. You think about it and you're as bad as the monsters out there are, if not worse." Dean hears a click and still doesn't look up; he can't black out, he has to stare his own death in the face and accept it. "It's the end of the line, Winchester."
The light bulb flickers again, much more noticeably this time, and then it starts to shake erratically and Johnny lowers his gun and turns around. "What the fuck?" It's rattling, the whole room seems to be shaking and Dean can't look up, even though he needs to see what's going on, needs to see...
There's a blinding white light and Dean can hear Johnny screaming, stares at Johhny's legs in horror while they're bending and bending before being ripped off and blood spurting everywhere, splashing Dean's clothes and his face and Dean breathes hard, tries to see more past the blood and the light, tries to tune out the horrible sound of the room shaking, his stomach twisting and his heart leaping up into his throat.
The white light dims and he can see what's left of Johnny's body, ripped apart limb from limb, his mouth open in a silent scream. Dean shivers and jumps when he feels someone at his back, undoing the rope painfully wound around his wrists. He knows it's not Sam, Sam would have talked to him by now and even if he hadn't, he would recognize his giant paws anywhere. No, these hands are small and hurried, but still gentle as they undo the rope.
"Please," Dean breathes out.
When his hands are free moments afterward, his head lolls back against the shoulder behind him in exhaustion, unable to care anymore about what the hell's going on. The presence behind him feels safe and Dean really needs safe right about now. There's a brief touch to his forehead, and black shifts hurriedly into pale white and the sensation of sheer bliss.
And look who's coming now…
Sam is frantically searching for his brother and growing more frustrated by the minute at gaining no more ground than he had previously. He's been all over town - bars and back alleys - and his panic is growing more frightening by the second. He's heading back to the Impala to drive around when a fog settles around him out of nowhere. He stops immediately, turning around desperately in the hopes of seeing something, anything, but especially his brother.
Sam does a double take as the fog begins to clear and his eyes filter in to the image of Gabriel holding his brother in his arms. He's standing not three feet away, looking at the younger Winchester boy with hesitance and an almost happiness, as relief begins to flood through Sam like a tidal wave. Until he notices that Dean's not moving.
"Sam," he smiles, "it's good to see you again."
Sam immediately raises his gun upon seeing the state of his brother. The blood clinging to Dean's clothes and to his hair, the paleness of his features that Sam can see perfectly well from where he's standing; that's how well he knows his brother. "Drop my brother," Sam warns, wanting so desperately to touch Dean, to check for his pulse and make sure he's still alive, make sure that he hasn't left him yet.
Gabriel looks down at Dean, "Don't think you'd really want me to do that, would you?" He gestures down to him, but holds him remarkably still. "Dean-o's in pretty bad shape here."
After a moment of terrible indecision, Sam lowers his gun and jams it in his back pocket, taking a step forward. "Can you heal him?"
Gabriel shrugs. "Depends, are you going to deep fry me afterward?"
Sam rolls his eyes and motions for Gabriel to follow him to the Impala. He wants to take Dean into his own arms, but he has no idea what injuries Dean has and doesn't want to hurt him further. The archangel he had once thought dead seems to know what he's doing, managing not to jostle his older brother as he moves. Dean stays unconscious and Sam is only partially grateful for that.
"I had a feeling it was you," he tells Gabriel after he lays Dean down on the back seat and somehow decides it's okay to join Sam in the front, Sam pulling out of the street quickly and racing towards their motel. "This whole thing reeks of you. People getting their just desserts... only Dean could empathize with you there." Sam's too preoccupied with the anxiety hovering over him to take care of his brother to look over and gage Gabriel's reaction. "But you've stepped up your game, Gabriel. You've started killing people now."
"No," Gabriel says immediately. "I'm not killing anyone, someone's framing me. You know full well that's not my gig, Winchester."
Sam thinks it over for a minute and honestly has no reason to believe him; then again, Gabriel just found his brother and saved him so maybe Sam has no reason not to believe him. "What do you want, Gabriel?"
"Nothing. I just want to make sure that Dean's okay and then I'll be on my merry way..."
"Your death has been taunting my brother for months, and I realize that I owe you after saving Dean but something has to be done, and maybe, I don't know, you can help him. He hasn't had a decent night's sleep in I don't know how long." The confused look Gabriel gives him only makes him more anxious. He shakes his head in disbelief, "You don't know what I'm talking about, do you?"
"No idea, Samsquatch. But if you wanted me to take a look inside Dean-o's head, all you had to do was ask."
"I just...," Sam can't believe he's saying this to an archangel, especially this archangel. "I just want him to be okay. He went back to Elysian Fields to look for you and I just don't understand it if you didn't push him towards it. It's not like my brother at all, to get obsessed over someone." Gabriel looks out the window then and Sam glances over at him. "What's with you? It seems like you're different."
"Just sick and tired of running, that's all."
Sam snorts, "You sound like my brother. He speeds off into the night with an archangel sitting beside him and an unconscious big brother sprawled across the back seat. Life's getting too interesting.
I won't harm you, little one. One more moment and you will be free, trust me.
Dean wakes up on his stomach, swathed in blankets and with a godawful taste in his mouth. He zones in and out between the dream world and reality, aching to hear that voice again. It had spoken to him last night, when he had pleaded to be left alone; he couldn't remember it then but he does now. The voice came to him again in his dreams, calming him down when his subconscious turned frantic and desperate for comfort. His body is crying out now as well, even upon waking, pleading with him to find those small hands again so they can bring him back to life.
Dean breathes deeply and starts when Sam's face hovers in front of his own.
"Hey, sleeping beauty." Sam smooths soft, spiky hair off his brother's fevered forehead, smiling at Dean's bed head and his vibrant green eyes, finally open. "Glad to finally see you awake."
Dean just stares at him, not knowing if he should try talking or not; fortunately, Sam always knows what's on his mind. "You've been in and out for a few days. It was almost like you just didn't want to wake up."
Dean swallows, knowing all about that. "Thanks for getting me out, Sammy."
There's a knock on the door and Dean sits up, staring at his brother in shock when he says, "Come in."
The figure that saunters into the room can't be who Dean thinks it is, there's no way in hell, but it is him. He would know that vessel anywhere and besides, it feels completely like Gabriel. His entire body is immediately flooded with light and he falls back against the pillows, unable to move, such joy filling his head and his very soul.
"Dean," Sam looks down at him in surprise, "you okay?"
"Dean-o's just happy to see me," Gabriel grins as he confirms what he suspected after his conversation with Sam in the car, "that's all." He doesn't move too close to Dean upon seeing his reaction at his presence, but it isn't because of the dread of feeling burdened, it is because he cannot contain his own grace at this point, cannot prevent it from losing control if he moves too close. He and Dean seem so connected at this point and there are always consequences. He wouldn't have come that night if he hadn't had to, if Dean's voice hadn't reached out for him out of the other billions of voices, so strained and so scared.
Sam pulls the blankets up over him and strokes his forehead, "Get some more sleep, bro."
There's a small smile on Dean's face that remains even after he closes his eyes and falls asleep, and Sam draws his attention away from him and towards Gabriel. Gabriel knows Sam isn't an idiot, knows Sam noticed that when the archangel walked into the room Dean seemed to light up and glow like a hundred light bulbs. Gabriel has never seen Dean so happy before, and he realizes how valuable that is and knows that deep down Sam knows it too. "What have you done to him?"
Gabriel shrugs, "Nothing without my knowledge beforehand."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Sam snaps, albeit quietly as he moves away from the bed and closer to Gabriel.
The archangel sighs, "If Dean here has been dreaming about me, as you claim, then I wouldn't be surprised if he's my charge." This was his suspicion, but it hadn't been confirmed until he had felt the strong tug towards the practically radiating with pure joy Dean. He didn't want to tell Sam first, knowing it would turn disastrous, but then again, if he could get Sam on his side then maybe he could help to convince Dean of the truth.
Gabriel's still having trouble facing it himself, but nothing feels more sure than being with Dean.
There's a long, strained silence as Sam tries to process this new information, information that Gabriel has no doubt is currently turning his whole world upside down. "Your charge? What are you talking about? Dean is Cas' charge." He sounds so sure, like he wants to be sure but can't be.
"It's rare," Gabriel responds uneasily, "but some humans throughout time have been fortunate enough to have more than one guardian, someone who essentially looks out for the well-being of their soul."
Sam looks up at him in sheer loathing and shoves the archangel up against a wall, his menacing face inches from Gabriel's. "You think this is all some sort of joke, don't you? If my brother is your charge, then you're even more of a dick than I thought."
"I didn't know, Sam. If I had, I never would have left him."
"I don't give a shit," Sam seethes, "just get out. We're both better off without you, especially Dean." Gabriel wants to threaten to break Sam into a thousand pieces, wants to tell him how much of an idiot he is for pushing Gabriel away like this. He doesn't say a word though because he's the one who's in the wrong, he's the one who abandoned Dean, who didn't realize...
"When Dean starts calling out my name again, do me a favor and don't beg me to come back." Gabriel disappears then, full of rage but more towards himself than Sam. It's no wonder why he's felt so drawn to Dean lately, why his grace yanked him towards the human when he called for help. Gabriel couldn't stop it even if he wanted to, this is entirely out of his control. His protective instincts have just hit the roof and it physically pains him to leave Dean. Not only that, but his lust is also a palpable presence, ignited by just smelling Dean's specific scent when he's nearby, let alone looking at him.
He has no doubt that Sam will kill him the second he walks back through the door, but he needs to try to convince him that Dean is much better off with Gabriel around. Maybe it won't be for the best in the long run, but the only thing he desires now is protecting Dean.
Dean is his charge, his only charge. He never thought he would acquire one, being so reckless and distracted as he was, but even though he has no idea how to treat a charge he needs to tell Dean that he's there for him if nothing else. He can't fuck this up. Nothing has ever seemed more important to him as this does.
After he leaves, for days afterward he can feel Dean's misery in waves, sometimes so fierce it's all he can do not to go to him. Sam tries to shut it away, takes Dean out hunting, shopping, to eat out, whatever, just so Dean can get his mind off of him, off of the hole in his very soul that's getting deeper and bigger every day and starts draining the life out of him.
Dean's tired but he can't sleep, starving but he can't eat, depressed but he can't understand the reason why, and either Gabriel has to abandon him completely or he has to confront him, even with Sam's threats looming over his head.
He can hear Dean's desperate please over and over in his head until he can't take it anymore. Can feel the weight of Dean's head on his shoulder, his fevered warmth, his giving up after experiencing Gabriel's grace in perhaps one of the worst ways imaginable.
Gabriel appears in the room when he's sure that Dean's gone. He doesn't know how he's going to do this, how he's going to convince Sam, but this is the only thing he knows he needs to do, the only thing that feels right.
Sam looks up from his laptop and stares at him in shock, "Gabe..."
"I want to be a proper guardian to your brother. I know I don't deserve it, but I'm not doing it for me. I'm doing it for Dean." There's a long pause as Sam stares up at him in surprise, though not disbelief, and he allows Gabriel to sit across from him. The archangel leans forward, "I will treat him right, Sam. If I don't then you can kill me a thousand times over, I deserve that."
Sam stares at him suddenly as if he understands everything but is stunned nonetheless. "You need him too, don't you? Your connection must be stronger with him than Cas' is."
Gabriel swallows, not knowing what to say to that even though it's true. With the apparent connection he has with Dean, it almost seems as if the two of them are bond-mates in addition to Dean being his charge. He doesn't want to think about it too much, knowing he's way in over his head here, but it's nice to be here, in a room where he can smell Dean and almost even taste him.
Sam sits back and stares at him carefully, "I'll give you a trial period, but if you fuck it up then it's over."
Gabriel's chest twists in joy and he smiles.
Don't let me waste this chance, father. I'll make it right.
The following months with Dean and Sam are slow and peaceful, their only bickering coming as a result of hunting and even then, it doesn't really feel like arguing at all, more like bonding. It's the last kind of life that Gabriel expected for himself, but Sam and Dean take him in and treat him as family, a helluva lot more than his real brothers did. When he thinks about all the other things he could be doing, he finds out that he longs for nothing.
Even though he knew it was wrong at the time and still does, though feels considerably less guilty about it now, he enters both the Winchester brothers heads and sets up a sole false thought: the deputy who kidnapped Dean was the one who murdered the three victims. It's pretty easy, considering there was doubt in Dean's mind beforehand that what Johnny had told him was the truth, considering he was seconds away from killing Dean.
He thinks about erasing Dean's memory of that night, taking away the blood and the gore and the trauma, but Dean's head on his shoulder draws him away from that notion, the fact that he doesn't want Dean to forget that night, forget what Gabriel did for him, what he'll always do for him.
Gabriel thinks back to when Sam told Dean that he was coming along with them. Dean had looked way beyond confused and even pained at first, but upon seeing Gabriel the misery washed off of him completely and he had to fight to hold himself back, to not jump on top of the archangel and hug him.
Gabriel didn't even need to take a peek inside Dean's head to see that he remembered that night Gabriel came back all too well. He went so quiet sometimes, forgetting Gabriel was even there, still in their lives after reuniting. But then he would see in Dean's eyes in other moments that he believed Gabriel needed to be exactly where he was, and Dean would say or do nothing to purposely drive Gabriel away.
No, he was driving Gabriel away in other ways.