Disclaimer: Not mine, not a penny made. Purely for pleasure, folks.

Pairings: Dean/Castiel, Sam/Gabriel

Rating: Hard R, adult concepts herein.

Warnings: Domestic violence, emotional and physical abuse and I am NOT kidding. If that's not your cup of tea, turn back now please. You've been warned.

Spoilers: Um, anything up to Changing Channels-5x08, I believe.

Sam bit his lip as he stared into the mirror…and at the dark bruise marking the side of his face. It was red and already turning black; there'd be no passing this one off as easily as he had the others. The last hunt was too far back to claim it was from that, and unless he went out and picked a bar fight…actually, that wasn't a half bad idea. Well, not that he really needed to pick an actual bar fight, but he could claim he had. Dean certainly wouldn't know otherwise, not given that he was passed out dead-ass drunk on his bed. And it'd explain the bruises, and the cracked rib too.

Sam nodded to himself, avoiding his reflection's tired gaze in the mirror because he didn't want to see whatever was lurking in his eyes. His hands were still shaking and that was bad enough; he told himself firmly that the burning in his eyes was simply fatigue, no surprise there.

And the locked door, well, that was just a precaution. A thing anyone would do when in a bathroom. Not because he was afraid of the man on the other side of that door.

He couldn't hide forever—well, he could, but the bathroom was small and cramped even by their meager standards. It was filthy too, the tub streaked with soap scum, the cheap linoleum cracked and mold high in the corner of one wall. Not the ideal place to spend the night, and if Dean happened to come to, there'd be awkward questions Sam didn't want asked.

Besides, he couldn't stand the thought of being cramped up in this motel with Dean snoring loudly on the other side of the thin walls.

His hands shook harder as he hesitated before the door, listening carefully. The snores were deep, loud and irregular, with the occasional hitches that Sam knew after a lifetime of listening to his brother sleep. Dean wasn't pretending. Hell, he knew that; Dean wasn't sober enough to be pretending.

That didn't change the way he unlocked the door and then froze, waiting for the slightest change that would signal this was nothing but a trick. No change, so he eased the door open, dropping into a crouch to present a smaller target as he hesitated again, not quite daring to advance into the room just yet. Dean was sprawled across his bed, drooling into his pillow and utterly oblivious to the world. Sam sidled out, gaze locked to his brother despite his best efforts, brief glances cataloguing the rest of the room. The chair had lost a leg when he'd crashed into it, and the table looked a little rickety but at least it was standing. No open wounds this time, not so much as a nosebleed, so no blood to clean off the walls before Dean woke up. He double-checked with a cautious look at Dean's hand, but there was no blood to match the bruising puffing up his knuckles, so at least he wouldn't have to carefully sponge Dean's hand clean tonight. Small mercies.

Sam scrawled a quick note, just Gone for a walk, the bare minimum needed to appease Dean if his brother happened to wake and find him gone. It'd set Dean off in other ways, of course, led to smoldering stares full of naked distrust, but it was better, he'd learned, than no note at all.

Either one would still lead to bruises or worse the next time Dean got drunk, but at least a note meant he was less likely to come out of it with a broken rib or four.

He slipped out the door and locked it behind him, shivering a little in the cool night air, but it was a welcome contrast from the smell of whiskey and sour sweat of the motel room. Sam slumped onto the sidewalk, because he couldn't stand the thought of a bar and he didn't have anywhere else to go. It was ten o'clock, most businesses had rolled up their carpets and locked their doors long ago, and even the libraries weren't open past nine. Outside was still better than inside.

He curled into himself, shaking harder now and no longer able to pretend it was just the cool air. The tears were hot and bitter as they spurted out, his breath hitching in silent sobs. Oh, God, he hated this. He hated fearing his own brother, hating sitting in the latest motel room waiting for Dean to come back drunk and furious. It only happened the nights Castiel wasn't around to distract his lover, but that was too frequent for Sam's taste.

He didn't know why it had started, couldn't pinpoint it exactly. Maybe it had started with Jo and Ellen's deaths, because that had cracked something deep within Dean. Maybe before then, seeing Bobby crippled because of the demons and the action he'd taken to save them both. Maybe Sam unlocking the final Seal, or the demon blood had been too much for Dean to forgive. Or maybe it was all of that and more, combined with the way Hell had broken Dean. He wasn't the same man he'd been before it—who could have been, really?—and sometimes he just snapped. Just needed a safe outlet for his rage and his fear and his grief. And Sam was the reason it had happened, the reason Bobby lived in a chair, the reason Jo and Ellen were gone, the reason the world was ending. Sam's fault, all of it, and they both knew it. He should be grateful Dean didn't usually rub it in his face until he'd drunk enough to really lower his inhibitions.

He could stop it and Sam knew it. Dean didn't hit him until he was dead drunk, until the alcohol had lowered his usual barriers, and while he was still highly trained and lethal, he'd be easy enough for Sam to stop. But he didn't. Because he knew Dean was right, knew this was all his fault. Dean might've opened the first Seal, but only because he'd sold himself to save Sam. That was on Sam's hands. Sam had let vengeance consume him, had taken a demon's word and drank her blood, and unleashed Hell upon the Earth. Fuck, he was Lucifer's vessel, for God's sake; how much more tainted could you be?

Dean was only telling the truth. Sam deserved those words slicing into him every bit as much as he deserved the blows Dean sent at him, and because of that he'd never fight back, never resist.

But he also knew Dean. Broken as they were, Dean still cared about him. It would hurt Dean to know he'd broken a trust he'd held sacred for most of his life, to know that he'd physically and deliberately attacked Sam. Yet another thing to pay for, driving his own beloved brother to this. So Sam kept his mouth shut, cleaned up any evidence, and let the words and the rage and the hatred seep into him.

He deserved it all and more, and Dean was the only one honest enough to give it to him.

But God, it hurt so much. Left him feeling raw and broken, left him hating himself with an all-consuming passion that nearly masked the fear and uncertainty eating him alive.

He deserved it, but he still didn't know how much more he could take.

"You should put some ice on that." The voice was female and very soft, and that was the only reason he didn't come up swinging with the knife in his hand. He blinked dazedly up at the middle-aged motel clerk, her mouth pursed tight as she eyed the door behind him before she looked down at him, offering him a kindly smile.

"W-what?" His voice was raw and hoarse from the weeping, but oddly he didn't feel embarrassed, not under her steady gaze.

"Some ice on that bruise, bring the swelling down a bit," she told him calmly. "Unless you'd let me call the cops, but I figured you wouldn't."

Sam flinched at the thought, and how angry Dean would be then. It was a small movement, but it made the clerk stiffen, her shoulders setting.

"Didn't think so," she sighed. "Well, c'mon, sweetie. Let's get you cleaned up a bit, huh?"

She…she reminded him of Ellen, of the brusque kindness the older woman had offered him even after learning about the demon's blood and all the rest of it. He staggered to his feet and followed her docilely into the office, let her herd him into a chair and vanish into the bathroom to reappear with a hand towel she packed with ice before handing it to him.

"You know, you don't deserve it and you don't have to take it," she said quietly to him.

Sam closed his eyes and told himself it was because of the burn of the ice against his swollen flesh, not to hold back the tears prickling his sore eyes all over again. "It's not what you think," he whispered. "He's my brother, not my lover."

One hand touched his, and it startled him into opening his eyes and meeting hers, dark and damp with the tears he wouldn't shed. A stranger wept for him, and the utter kindness of it left him stunned and quiet, chest aching strangely.

"It's still abuse," she told him roughly. "It doesn't have to be this way."

"It's only when he gets drunk," Sam excused, eyes dropping away from hers. "And trust me, I've done some pretty shitty things lately. Really, it's not that bad."

She blew out a breath. "Said that myself, or near enough," she sighed. "And because I did, I know there's no arguing with you. You'll listen when you're ready and not before." She shook her head, eyes too knowing, too haunted. "But for tonight, you'll take this key and sleep in a room away from him, and not insult me by asking how much you owe me, seeing as the room's empty anyway. For my sake if not your own, all right?"

Dean wouldn't wake until well past the dawn, more than enough time for Sam to sneak back in. If he came back with breakfast, Dean might even buy the note—or figure Sam had been whisked away by Gabriel for the night. And Sam couldn't ignore the swell of utter relief swamping him at the idea of not having to lie awake tonight, tense and jumping at every shift in his brother's breathing.

One night to shore his mask back up wasn't too much to ask.

"I—thank you," he said quietly, taking the key she offered.

"You're welcome." She cleared her throat. "Now, you go get some sleep. Things are always brighter in the morning, I've found."

Sam didn't agree with her—things were just clearer, usually—but he didn't argue. Just flashed a smile back and slid back out of the office as she turned to her computer. The room was smaller than their double, and the bed was a single that wouldn't quite accommodate his large frame, but it was paradise. He set the alarm for five am and folded his clothes carefully before he slipped between the sheets and let the exhaustion sweep him away.

He woke at the bleat of the alarm, startled at how deeply he'd slept; usually he couldn't sleep like that unless he was in Gabriel's arms, trusting that his lover wouldn't let any harm find him while he rested. It stung a little to realize he'd slept better alone than he had with Dean to watch his back, but he shoved it aside. He deserved this.

Sam took advantage of the shower, knowing from experience he wouldn't be comfortable naked with Dean in the next room, not for awhile. Maybe he'd get lucky and Cas would be back, leading to separate rooms without awkward questions he didn't want to answer.

The clerk was gone, but her teenage replacement showed no surprise at the tall man returning a key, and Sam fled from the curious gaze trained on the impressive bruise across his cheek. He should go back to the room, check on Dean—but instead he turned away from the motel entirely. Breakfast was a good plan, guaranteed to put Dean in a better mood, and he'd spotted a diner about five miles down the road.

The sun was well up when he walked up to the room, unlocking the door and entering, bags swinging in his free hand. He'd splurged, unable to resist the temptation of the chocolate chip pancakes that were among Gabriel's favorites; he needed the reminder of his lover right now.

"Breakfast!" he called with false cheer, then looked up and froze, eyes widening and a delighted smile curving his lips as he took in the room's occupants. Dean was in the bathroom if the sound of running water was any indication. More important, Castiel was seated on his bed, looking up at Sam's entrance.

He won't touch me tonight.

It was Sam's first thought and for a second shame rushed through him because really, what kind of thought was that? He should be relieved Cas was back, safe and apparently sound, glad for Dean's sake that his lover had returned safely once again.

His budding angst-fest was interrupted as the bags were taken from him and he was backed against the door, a hand pulling him down into a hot kiss, and he melted into it, into the warmth and love pouring into him.

"Gabriel," he greeted happily when he was finally released, and the other male's smile faded slightly as he got a good look at Sam's face.

"What happened here?" he asked, one long finger tracing the dark bruise, pain fading in its wake. Sam managed a shrug, hoping like hell it looked casual enough to pass two pairs of interested angelic eyes.

"Bar fight," he lied through his teeth, and nearly swore aloud as Gabriel tipped his head, hazel eyes narrowing.

"Really? Because you're not the Winchester who gets into fights at the drop of a hat, Sammy."

Sam smiled, shrugged, and slipped away to open the bags, setting the containers out. He offered his breakfast to Gabriel, who arched a brow and conjured up his own with a snap of his fingers, then added fresh fruit to Sam's container.

"You're losing weight," he said simply when Sam cast him a startled, grateful glance. "Eat."

He was losing weight and he knew it, tension knotting his stomach so tight it wasn't worth the effort of forcing food down only to puke it back up later. But the small gesture made him smile even as he obediently bit into his pancakes. And, distracted by the really delicious fruit, he missed the slow, concerned glances traded between angels above him.

Gabriel conjured up a chair and dropped into it, deliberately crowding Sam between him and the wall, and he didn't miss how Sam relaxed into his side. Something was off with his lover, and he didn't like it one bit. It wasn't demon blood, no matter what Dean would probably assume; he'd only just begun the long, slow process of binding Sam to him as his chosen mate, but already his ties to the youngest Winchester were deep enough that he'd sense any supernatural encroachment on what was his. So if it wasn't blood, what had Sam fairly vibrating with tension in what should have been the sanctuary of their room?

Where had that very fresh bruise come from? He didn't know, but as he tucked into his own steaming pancakes, rich chunks of Belgium chocolate melting across his tongue, he silently promised his oblivious mortal that he'd find out very soon.

And then someone would learn the folly of harming that which was Gabriel's.

Sam was whistling quietly as he swung up the steps and hurried down the walk to his room. It'd been a busy few weeks, but Castiel hadn't left on any errands lasting more than a few hours, and even Gabriel had taken to popping in and out regularly enough to justify separate rooms. The hunt had been smooth and clean for once, Lucifer was being quiet, and even Zachariah didn't appear to have any major plots going on right now, or at least nothing that was succeeding. Things were good.

Then he opened the door and his heart sank as Dean looked up, scowl firmly in place. "Where you been?" his brother demanded tersely, and Sam hesitated before he slowly shut the door behind himself.

"At the college library." They were staying in Ithaca, New York, hometown of Cornell University, and Bobby had a friend in the library there. Which meant Sam had access to a lot of very nice resources during their stay, and he'd been taking full and shameless advantage of a college library's late-night hours. It was well after midnight, and there was a definite slur to Dean's words. "Where's Cas?" he risked, and Dean's frown deepened as he lifted the nearly empty bottle of whiskey to his lips and took a hard slug of its contents.

"Errand. Where else?"

It couldn't just be Cas' absence; Dean took time to build up enough steam to lash out, usually over the course of at least a week. Never in just a handful of hours. But the aggression pouring out of him was all too familiar, and it heralded pain in Sam's near future.

"What happened?" he asked finally. It didn't matter and part of him didn't want to know, but he'd have to find out sooner or later. Dean scowled, taking another deep swig of alcohol.

"Your black-eyed friends killed half a dozen good hunters, Sam boy."

Oh, fuck. Dean threw the empty bottle aside to splinter against the wall in a shatter of glass, and Sam jerked a little as one flying shard opened a cut along his cheek. But running wouldn't help, would just make Dean angrier, so he didn't move, just watched his brother in silent, despairing resignation.

"Nothin' to say? No excuses? No more apologies, Sammy?"

The nickname was a sneer on his brother's lips, and somehow that hurt more than the bruises would. The marks faded, but the words…those seared into Sam's mind, tormented him at night mercilessly.

"Good people," Dean repeated hoarsely. "Gone, jus' like Ellen an' Jo. An' they'd still be alive if not for you 'n' me, Sam. They'd still be alive!"

He was weeping as he swung, and Sam didn't move as the fist smashed into his jaw with alcohol-induced rage and grief-fueled strength. He felt the crack as much as he heard it, and then his head smacked against the wall hard enough to bring tears to his eyes and stars to his vision. He went down hard and stayed down, on his hands and knees, shaking his head to clear his vision.

Dean took it as denial, and that was all it took. He was angrier than Sam had ever seen him as he advanced, shouting incoherently as his foot found Sam's ribs, knocking the younger man off balance. Dazed and disoriented, Sam went with instinct and curled into himself, protecting his head.

It never dawned on him to fight back.

Dean fisted a hand in Sam's overshirt and yanked him back up, free fist smashing into his face again, and for the first time Sam cried out as bone grated against bone. It wasn't loud, wasn't much more than a startled, pained yelp—but it was enough.

A snap carried to him even over Dean's yells, and then Dean was thrown back on the wall of white light briefly scorching through the room. Sam slid back down the wall, unable to support himself without his brother holding him up. He blinked dazedly at the empty spot where Dean had stood a heartbeat earlier before he found Dean groaning from the bathroom he'd apparently been flung into. He had a split second of baffled panic as he wondered what the fuck had just happened, and then Gabriel filled his vision. For the first time he saw the Angel of Judgment in Gabriel, in the thin line of his lover's mouth and the cold rage smoldering in his eyes. For a nanosecond there was something rising from Gabriel's back, and then Sam blinked against the afterimages of great wings seared into his vision.

Oh, crap.

"'snot what you think," he fumbled, tongue thick and unwieldy, and the archangel snorted despite the rage and grief brightening his eyes.

"Oh, so your brother didn't just beat the shit out of you in a drunken rage?"

Castiel hit his knees on Sam's left, pale and more shaken than he'd ever seen the angel. "Gabriel?"

"I've got him. Check on yours, I wasn't exactly gentle when I got here."

Castiel didn't look overly thrilled at the command, but he obeyed in a swirl of tan trenchcoat. Sam watched him crouch beside Dean, then rolled his head to look at Gabriel again—his eyes didn't want to work properly, and neither did the rest of him.

"Didn' mean it," he argued faintly, and Gabriel shut his eyes, head bowing for a moment before he lifted it.



"Be quiet. Because I really want to kill your brother right now, and if I have to listen to you defending him, I'm going to lose what little control I have left." His mouth tightened again. "So just…shut up for the moment. Let me take a look at you. You can defend him later."

Gabriel's hands were shaking, and the sight held Sam riveted in place as his archangel cupped his face, fingers brushing over the fragile flesh, Grace caressing the even more fragile soul beneath.

"Gabriel?" Castiel was back again, but Sam couldn't remember seeing him move. He blinked again, the world hazy and out of focus. Shock, most likely, but he couldn't remember why that was a bad thing.

"Bruises and cracked bones physically. Mentally…that's going to take more work."

"Dean will heal." Cas sounded flat. He didn't sound like Dean's lover, and he looked so crushingly disappointed Sam's throat tightened.

"S'okay," he tried, and cobalt eyes locked on him.

"No, Samuel, it is not," Castiel said very gently before he looked back at Gabriel. "I bear some fault in this, brother. I permitted Dean's anguish over his actions in Hell and his guilt at breaking the first Seal to fester."

"You didn't make him beat his brother, Cas." Gabriel's voice held the same gentleness he was offering Sam, and Castiel swallowed before he nodded shortly.

"It does not excuse him, but it does perhaps explain his actions," he observed to the elder angel. Gabriel blew out a tight breath.

"Not now. Later, after I've taken care of my mate and calmed myself, we'll talk, Castiel. About your Charge and what should be done for him. But not right now." He glanced up at his younger brother. "Right now, I'm getting us out of here before I smite that self-righteous prick on principle alone."

Castiel inclined his head. "I will handle things here." He brushed a light touch over Sam's forehead. "Be well, Samuel Winchester."

Sam opened his mouth, not even sure himself what there was to say, and the room dissolved around him at the touch of two fingers to his forehead. He landed in the most opulent bathroom he'd ever seen, lavish even by Gabriel's hedonistic standards, and was carefully eased onto a futon that was just the right height. He jumped at the quiet snap, adrenaline still racing through him, or so he told himself to explain the way he was still shaking.

"Hush," Gabriel murmured, sinking into an easy crouch in front of him. A warm, wet cloth stroked across his face, wiping away the blood and tears. "I've got you, Sammy."

He'd more than half-expected Gabe to snap the mess away, but the angel's hands were gentle as he cleaned Sam's skin, hissing softly at some of the bruising already coming to spectacular life. After a moment Sam let his eyes close again, soothed by the familiar scent of mint and chocolate, the tender touch. Long fingers carded through his hair to find the lump the wall had left, and his vision cleared a little as the throb faded away.

Gabriel worked in silence. He could've wiped away the blood caking on Sam's face with a snap of his fingers and a brush of divine power, but he didn't want to. He knelt at Sam's feet in unspoken atonement, because he was a fucking Archangel of the Lord and he hadn't realized his own mate was being beaten to a pulp on a regular basis. But it was comfort too, for the both of them. He needed to touch Sam right now, needed the silent assurance that he hadn't been too late, that Sammy was safe, if not quite okay. And he hadn't missed the way Sam had tensed at his first touches, or the way his mortal was now leaning into his caresses. He healed the cracked cheekbone as he had the concussion and Sammy's fractured ribs, but the bruises remained in his wake, a reminder to both he and Sam of what had happened.

When he judged the moment right, and Sam was little more than tired putty in his hands, he spoke. "How long has this been going on, kiddo?"

Sam had expected the question at some point. There was no way he was getting out of answering and he knew that too; this had officially been taken out of his hands when Gabriel had walked in to find him in a bruised heap on the dirty carpet and Dean standing over him with bloodied hands.

"Awhile," he admitted, then hurried on as Gabriel's face darkened ominously. He had to make Gabriel understand. "It's my fault, and he only does it when Cas isn't around," he said earnestly, and Gabriel stared at him in stricken disbelief.

"Sammy, are you even listening to yourself?" he burst out. "What, it makes it okay that Dean's hurt you because Cas isn't around when he does it?"

"It's not that often," Sam tried to explain. "And it's only when he's drunk, really drunk."

"Sam," he said quietly, forcing himself to calm. "That doesn't make it right. There is nothing you could've done to deserve getting hit."

Sam bit his lip, eyes stricken. "But…"

"Nothing, Sam." He let a touch of Grace bleed into his voice, just enough to remind his mortal exactly who stood before him, and he saw the moment it hit home. Sam crumpled a little, looking young and exhausted and a little bit broken. It wasn't a look Gabriel approved of.

He'd seen so much over the millennia, seen the best and the worst of Adam's sons, but this…he didn't understand, and for once he needed to. Gabriel reached up, fingers resting on Sam's forehead as he slipped into the mortal's mind, reading the maelstrom of grief, guilt, confusion, pain, shame and anger buried so deep even Sam probably didn't realize it was there.

He'd felt that same guilt and devastation himself, aeons ago when his own world had shattered around him. Had felt it when his family had been sundered and Lucifer cast out, never to grace Heaven with his beauty again. Instead of turning that anger and grief in on himself as Sam had, he'd reacted more like Dean when he'd wrapped himself in the form of a Trickster and served the mortals who'd been the trigger for it all their just desserts with his own savage twists.

He understood. But that didn't mean he was going to accept it. He'd be entirely within his rights to smite Dean into dust and he was half-tempted to do it—see how they handled an Apocalypse when only Lucifer's Vessel still walked the Earth—but he made the mistake of looking into exhausted hazel eyes.

"He's m'brother," Sam said softly, a plead and an explanation woven together in the words. Gabriel sighed, letting his righteous wrath fade away. He'd loved like that before, and he'd let Michael and Lucifer do similar damage to him in the name of that love. He didn't like it, but he did understand.

"He's your brother," he agreed with Sam. "And you're my Charge and my mate, which gives me at least equal rights."

Sam, wisely, looked rather cautious even as he nodded warily. Gabriel ran through his options quickly: couldn't just take Sammy away, couldn't do anything resulting in a split between the brothers Winchester. And really, now that his temper had been blunted a bit, he didn't want to. Like it or not, they were safer together than apart, they'd both proven that in equally disastrous methods in the past. Which meant he needed a solution that let them stay together, hunt together, and still left Sammy protected.

He could think of one way, and while Dean and Sam weren't likely to be overly thrilled, it'd work. A quick mental call to Castiel got the younger angel's agreement, and he was set. Now for selling it to Sammy.

He refocused on his mortal to find Sam listing to the side as exhaustion caught up with him. "Whoa, easy there," he chuckled, tugging Sammy up easily and steering him into the lavish bedroom. His mortal tumbled gratefully into bed, and Gabriel snapped their clothes off as he followed, tucking Sammy securely against him. By all rights Sam should've fallen asleep immediately, but the kid was nothing if not stubborn.

"Gabe? About Dean…"

"You can stay," he said before Sam went into another round of justifications. "But on my terms."

There was a long, thoughtful pause, but Sammy wasn't stupid and he never did forget that angels weren't human no matter what vessel they wore. Pushing would gain him nothing and he was smart enough to know it, so he waited to see what Sam would do next. He'd accepted Gabriel as his mate, yes, but that bond had never been put to this kind of test before, because Gabriel had never once pitted Sam's lifelong loyalty to his brother against his love for Gabriel.

"Deal," the mortal said finally, and tension Gabriel hadn't realized he was holding flowed out of him. One battle down, and the rest of it would wait until the morning.

"Go to sleep, Sammy," he whispered, darkening the room with a thought as he skated his fingers across his mortal's forehead, slipping him into sleep before he could argue. The rest would wait until morning.

Sam woke slowly, a rarity for the battle-honed hunter. The reason for it was still wrapped firmly around him. He wiggled a little, testing the arms pinning him back against a solid chest and the leg tossed over his, and the grip tightened, pulling him firmly back against his lover.

Safe. He relaxed into the hold, only then realizing how sore he was. Dean had done a number on him this time, more than he'd ever done before—and there was a message in the stiff muscles and the bruises that Gabriel had deliberately left. The archangel was pissed off, not that Sam could blame him; he'd've been pissed off himself if he'd been in Gabriel's boots. And he was making sure Sam understood how annoyed he was.

"Morning," he offered into the sunlight and the birdsong streaming in through the open windows.

A mouth pressed against his shoulder, a gesture that was more about reassurance and love than sex. The cock pressing against his ass was flaccid, which was equally unusual and served to drive home how serious his mate was.

"Morning yourself."

Sam worried his lip, brain firing into reluctant life as he wondered what would happen now. He wasn't under any illusions; he'd made his choice last night, he'd abide by whatever conditions Gabriel set. If pushed to it, he'd have chosen Gabriel over Dean and he was simply grateful his mate hadn't forced that choice on him as he'd had every right to do. Hell, the part of him that insisted he deserved everything Dean dished out and worse half-expected Gabriel to have simply left his sorry ass upon seeing firsthand how pitiful he was.

A chiding hand pressed into the hand print on his hip for a moment, just long enough to quell his insecurities and dampen his shame. Right. Archangel who didn't believe in privacy and who was privy to pretty much everything coursing through Sam's head.

"What happens now?" he asked the question burning foremost on his tongue, and Gabriel's hand drifted up, lingering along the too-prominent ridges of his ribs.


It wasn't quite what he'd expected, but at this point he wasn't even sure what he expected at all. All he knew was that he felt safe and warm and loved, with the nagging edge of worry and fear gone, and he was too worn to fight. He didn't want to fight, full stop. So he didn't. He sat in the lavish bed and let Gabriel feed him more food than he'd eaten in days, soaked in a hot bath afterwards, and simply reveled in the gentle hands flowing over him.

But it couldn't last forever, and it was no surprise when Gabriel snapped his fingers and Sam was clad in jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt that smelled of mint, and his favorite hoodie.

"I do the talking," Gabriel informed him firmly, and he nodded. The archangel blew out a breath, nodded, and touched Sam's forehead, vanishing them both in a whoosh of wing beats.

They reappeared in front of the hotel and Sam tensed a little despite himself, well aware he was hovering close to Gabriel, but his lover didn't seem to mind. The door opened and Dean stepped out, a stern-faced Castiel in his wake. Sam's heart twisted at the raw misery in his brother's eyes, the pallor of his skin that indicated a long night of thinking and thinking hard at that.

Dean looked broken. Castiel didn't look happy, but there was a hint of grim satisfaction painted across his face and he inclined his head slightly when Gabriel caught his eye, brow arching in silent query. His stern look lightened as he studied Sam carefully, a reassuring smile warming his eyes even as his Brother's attention swung back to the eldest Winchester.

"Ground rules." Gabriel's tone made it very clear he was not negotiating, and he kept himself positioned just in front of Sam, ready to shield his chosen mate at a second's notice. Dean flinched a little, but he didn't argue, just nodded silently and waited. It would do. "Separate rooms," Gabriel announced grimly, because it'd be a very long time before he trusted Dean anywhere near Sammy, much less in the same damn room. "You're not in his unless Cas or I are there. You're not alone with him, period."

Sam twitched, and Gabriel quelled the incipient protest with one stern stare. He wasn't blaming Sam for this, but he'd seen a lot of broken victims before and Sam had gone to considerable lengths to hide the fact that his brother was beating the shit out of him whenever he got wasted. Sam couldn't be trusted to tell him or Cas if something happened, so there was no fucking way he was leaving them alone together. Right now Dean was ashamed, nearly broken by the knowledge of what he'd done to his baby brother—but that didn't change the fact that he'd done it.

Someday, Gabriel might forgive the bruises Dean had left on Sam's body and soul. That didn't mean he'd ever forget them.

"Okay," Dean said hoarsely.

"You want to get drunk, fine," Gabriel continued ruthlessly. "You make sure Cas or I know about it beforehand. We'll see to it you get back to your room safe and sound." And that he stayed there. Because if Dean came pounding on the door in a drunken rage, he didn't trust Sammy not to let him in.

"I will," Dean vowed, and Gabriel believed him.

"You'd better," he said too quietly, letting a hint of his rage show through and ignoring the way Castiel stiffened slightly at the implied threat to his Charge. "Because I promise you, Dean Winchester, if you so much as lay a finger on him again, I'll take him so far away you'll never again catch so much as a whisper of him in all your life. We clear?"

Dean shut his eyes, and his head bowed, shattered pride ground into the asphalt beneath them. "Yeah. We're clear."

Castiel's hand found his shoulder and Sam relaxed a little at the sight, at the way his brother leaned back into his lover's touch. He'd been worried, a little, that Cas wouldn't forgive Dean given how angrythe usually unflappable angel had been last night, but that one touch made it clear that Cas wasn't about to abandon his lover. Good. Cas would get Dean through this, was probably the only one who could, and that was right because it was Gabriel who'd get Sam through his share of the wreckage.

"I'm sorry, Sam," Dean said hoarsely, voice wrecked, and Sam bit his lip, instinct to soothe warring with the knowledge that Dean really had fucked up royally.

"I know," he offered, and meant it because he did know. He'd never doubted Dean's love for him, even on the worst of the nights. Dean was just broken, moreso than even he had realized, and Sam was the safe target, the only target. And it wasn't like he hadn't done his own considerable share of fucking up over the past two years. Besides, whether Gabriel liked it or not, he had played a part in this by keeping his mouth shut, covering up the bruises, and not pulling Dean up flat the first time his brother had taken a drunken swing at him. He might not have asked to be beaten up, but he'd enabled both the cycle of intoxication and the violence. He'd let Dean down in his own way as surely as Dean had let him down, and yeah, maybe that was a fucked up thing to think, but they were pretty fucked up too. "I'm sorry too, Dean."

For a second their eyes met in silent understanding, their bond dented and cracked, but never broken. They'd get through this. It'd take time and effort, and things would never quite be the same—but they'd get through this.

Together, with Gabriel at his side and Dean and Cas at his back, they'd get through it all.