Disclaimer: Consider it done.
Spoilers: End of Season 5, most of early Season 6.
Pairings: Gabriel/Sam, Dean/Castiel
Warnings: Angst!Sam galore but with a (mostly) happy ending.
Word Count: 4,299
Summery: When Crowley said he'd give Sam's soul back, he never said what condition it would be in.
A/N: Guh! I don't even know where this came from, honestly. It's just soulless!Sammy is so heartbreaking, and I utterly despise what this season is doing to him. Poor boy. Someone needs to come to his rescue and really, who better then Gabriel?
Of Threadbare Souls and Rain
If Sam had really understood what it would feel like to have his soul returned, he never would have fought so hard for it. Not having to eat or sleep had been…odd but manageable and he didn't mind that part. Granted, he wasn't capable of minding anything at the time but that's besides the point. He ate and drank for the sake of normalcy, especially since it seemed so important to Dean, but Sam felt no actual pleasure from the act. At the time, Sam thought that maybe he missed having a soul. After all, according to Dean he wasn't acting himself without it, which made sense really. He may have been a better hunter but logically he knew that was only because he was completely hunt driven, all black and white in a way he had never been before. If something needed to be killed then he would do whatever it took to kill it, end of story. Sam knew he wasn't like that before but it was working so he couldn't have cared less. He didn't care about a lot of things. Like Dean for one, his lack of memory of the Cage for two or anything at all, actually. Honestly, he didn't even care that the demon Crowley, of all people, had his soul on lockdown. But, since Dean sure as Hell seemed to care, Sam decided he should probably attempt to as well.
When Crowley gave his demands, hunt down Alphas and bring them to him, Sam didn't think to ask why it had to be them that did the job simply because it didn't seem to matter. His soul was being dangled over their heads and as much as Dean hated it they had no choice. So they played as Crowley's little puppets, more or less compliant beyond a few 'mishaps' as Dean called them. Eventually, Crowley claimed to have found what he'd needed from the beasts and granted Sam the return of his soul.
Then, suddenly, Sam cared a lot about a lot of things. He cared too much and soon found himself wishing he was soulless again. At least then he wouldn't have to feel the crushing weight of guilt, fear, shame and disgust at himself. Worse then all that though, was the return of his memories from the Pit. It was a horror beyond anything he'd ever imagined. Suddenly Sam understood his brother a whole lot more, but it wasn't enough because while Dean may have been in Hell for years tied to the rack, that couldn't compare to Sam's torture. He'd been forced to endure the agony of an earth shatteringly pissed off Archangel turned Devil taking his frustrations and rage out on Sam. Trapped in the Cage, Sam had been beyond helpless to anything, he was merely a passenger without a seat belt in the midst of multi-car pile up. Michael hadn't behaved much better, he'd been able to cling to Adam's body but luckily for Adam, the Archangel hadn't lied when he said the littlest Winchester wasn't around anymore. The Archangel had been just as pissed at him as Lucifer, maybe even more so. When those two weren't busy screaming at each other and hurling accusations back and forth, then they were playing the ultimate tug-of-war over Sam.
Jimmy Novak had once described being possessed by an Angel as riding a comet, but Castiel was only a member of the Garrison and a weakened one at that. Being the center of attention to two Archangels? Well, that was a completely different story. In all of Sam's memories, his times not spent bleeding or screaming were few and far between. Self-righteous Angels were sadistic sons of bitches and Sam will never forget that. Haven't forgotten it for a second since the return of his soul.
He knows that Dean is worried, but Sam can't bring himself to talk to his brother. Not after everything he's done. As far as Sam can see it, he's brought all this on himself so he'll either handle the nightmares and the constant pain or burn out in the process. And honestly, he's not sure which outcome he prefers.
Dean's been helpful, extremely so but it only makes Sam's anxiety rise. He knows he doesn't deserve this, his brother's love, but he has it anyway and that hurts too. Because, what does Dean have? An Angel that can't decide if Heaven or his charge is more important? A brother so broken that no one can tell if he was ever whole in the first place? A life that could have been but won't ever be because Fate is the world's biggest dick? Dean has been through so much, and Sam knows he's tired, but he also knows that for some reason his brother has faith in something. He's just not sure what that thing is. What is there left to inspire faith? Sam can't think of anything, but then he's not thinking of much beyond pain and darkness and fear, nowadays.
Now that Sam has his soul, he needs to sleep and eat again, just like a normal human. Only problem is that nothing will stay down and whenever he closes his eyes the flashing images of blood paint over his mind and he is chased by screams that never end.
Late one night, in some random hotel room out in some small Podunk town, Sam curls into a ball on his bed (farthest from the door) and lets the tears run down his face because the pain is just too much and it never, ever goes away. No matter how much he drinks or how many pills he takes, it never eases and Sam sometimes wonders if maybe there's still something wrong with him. Because he's fairly certain he's not supposed to hurt like this, it's a pain that gives the phrase 'soul deep' a whole new and probably literal meaning. It's wearing him down almost as fast as the nightmares and as he lays awake, shaking all night in agony, he finds himself morbidly curious as to which one will kill him first.
Eventually it gets to the point where Sam can no long function properly and Dean takes initiative even as Sam begs him not to. He calls Castiel and the Angel answers, they haven't seen Castiel since directly after Crowley returned his soul when they had him make sure it really was Sam's soul.
Castiel takes one look at Sam and flinches in a way that Sam almost found funny, but mostly considered disturbing. The Angel approaches the bed where Sam is taking refuge under a pile of blankets and with each step closer the pain intensifies because Sam can feel his power, his Grace. It's terrifying in how similar it feels to Michael and even Lucifer. It's raw, pure energy and it sends Sam scooting franticly away to heave into a trashcan. After that, Castiel keeps a fair distance and an ever tighter shroud over his power, which Sam is endlessly thankful for. Luckily, their Angelic friend doesn't need to probe Sam like he did the first time to see what he missed the second time around. The wound on his soul, apparently formed when Crowley ripped him apart from Lucifer and out of the Cage, went unattended during the demon's care and now it's festered to the point that Sam's soul is dying. After his time in the Cage, he is super attune to Grace but not in a good way. This makes it impossible for Castiel to fix since even a hint of his Grace only makes the injury worse. Castiel's final, somber prognosis is that his soul will die and take him with it. The only time frame he could give them was 'not long'.
Honestly, Sam's relieved. This means that the pain will stop, for good, because to kill the soul means that the person is gone forever. No Heaven, no Hell, no existence at all. It sounds so perfect, Sam almost can't wait.
But Dean's shut down. Claims he can't lose his brother again, that it's happened too fucking many times already. He rants at Castiel for a while but there really is nothing the Angel can do and Sam shoves his head under the blankets when Castiel finally just jerks Dean into a kiss. Castiel's tone is low and as soothing as the Angel can manage it. Sam's not sure if it was the words or the kiss but Dean calms down enough to pull him into a bone crushing hug that Sam hasn't had the pleasure of feeling in more years then he cares to remember. They're still hugging when Castiel lets out a quiet gasp and the hotel room is suddenly filled with another presence. It's one Sam's never felt before, not with his advanced sensitivity but he recognizes it all the same. Dean's jerking away and crouched protectively in front of him before Sam can even raise his eyes. Once he does, Sam meets the honey gold gaze of someone he thought was gone for good and then, everything goes dark.
When he comes to it's quiet and still, peaceful in a way Sam doesn't recognize. His whole body aches but he has the sense that it's not safe wherever he is, so Sam rolls to his feet with an effort. The moment he begins to take in his surroundings Sam recognizes it. The Cage.
A vast and completely endless open space as bare as a desert and as dark as a black hole. The air hummed with energy that made Sam's skin crawl in memory of power that had once flayed him open more times then he can count. It lasted only a moment though before he was once again left alone with a feeling of being surrounded and smothered by empty space. Sam remains frozen in place, knowing that no matter how far he walks he'll never find the light or a way out. Only once several agonizing minutes pass does he allow himself to sink back down to the ground, taking subtle comfort in the only solid part of this literal Hellhole. He sits there for what feels like years but could've only been seconds. Sam finds that he doesn't really mind this. Here, he doesn't have to think about anything at all, he can just let the darkness swallow him whole.
But despite the quiet, Sam's worried because it's been too long, too long since Lucifer or Michael (or both) had searched him out for a little fun. It has to be coming soon, the pain, the fear, the taunts, the hate, any minute now. As if those thoughts summoned it, that tingly electric sensation rushed over Sam's skin again and hung heavy in the air. Far above him, Sam gets the impression that clouds have formed and that if he could see them, they would be dark gray and angry. This is not how things usually happen and Sam climbs back to his feet, tense and wary but just so damn tired. He wasn't sure he had anything left to fight whatever was about to be thrown at him. So he stands and waits. He's not left waiting long before there is the sound like the rushing of air over a bird's wing and the arrival of a presence directly in front of him, or at least what he thinks is in front of him. There is a moment of tense stillness, before Sam hears someone release of puff of breath.
"Jeeze Sammy, your mindscape is so depressing."
That voice is one Sam can't ever forget and his own breath freezes in his chest. It's not possible, he knows its not but God damn if Sam can't stop that brief flicker of hope. He takes a step back from where he thinks that voice came from and swallows hard. There is a snap and light flares harshly bright in front of him forcing Sam to cover his face. Only once it had dimmed to a more manageable level does he peek between his fingers and the sight before him causes his hands to drop slowly to his sides as he takes an aborted half step forward.
It's Gabriel, exactly as Sam remembers him. All crooked smarmy grin and deep honey gold eyes. For a long, torturous moment Sam wonders if he's been saved but just as quickly as the thought comes he shoves it away because this is the Cage and being saved isn't an option. No, this had to be Lucifer's doing. The Devil must have finally noticed the weakness Sam held for this particular former Archangel. Too bad Gabriel is as dead and gone as everyone else he's lost.
Sam heaves a sigh, aware of this fake Gabriel's eyes on him, and plops back down on the ground. "If your going to taunt me like this you might as well sit down." He mutters, staring lifelessly at Lucifer. The Devil's grin falters just so slightly and he hesitates before settling down directly in front of Sam, and closer then he's comfortable with.
"What are you doing, Sam?" Lucifer asks, as if he doesn't know.
Sam shrugs because honestly? He doesn't know. He's not sure he cares anymore.
"Sammy, listen." The Devil leans forward enough to catch his gaze and it's more intense and softer then anything he's seen from Lucifer yet. "You need to wake up. I know it hurts, trust me I get it, but you must wake up."
Sam frowns, not following, and tilts his head in an unconscious mimicry of another Angel he knows. He says nothing, pondering the Devil's latest game.
Lucifer reaches a hand out to him and Sam flinches away, flashing back and thinking of fearhatepainpainpain. Hurt gleams in those gold eyes but he misses it in a wave of terror that leaves Sam trembling.
"Please Sam, I can't fix you if you won't wake up." And that doesn't sound like Lucifer in the slightest, not that tone, so helpless and urgent and thinly veiled concern.
"I, I don't understand." Sam stared directly into those golden eyes searchingly, looking for the signs of the Devil he will forever be able to recognize, no matter what face the other wears. He can't get even a glimpse of what he expects. Sam frowned, the expression weak and uncertain. Could it really be?
The being that looked like Gabriel gave him a confused stare. "You don't know? Sam, you fell into a coma when the damage on your soul became too extensive for your body to handle. Surely you remember that much?"
Slowly, Sam thinks he might know what the other is saying, the situation sounds familiar. Sam has a flashing memory then, of Dean standing over him wearing an expression of worried concern and a sad, desperate helplessness. Right behind that is the image of serious and deeply bothered blue eyes of a shade that told him exactly who they belonged to. Finally, he remembers the sensations of a warm Grace stroking over his being, the first touch of power he's ever felt that hasn't been cold as ice and painful.
Sam jerks to his feet in a shaky stumble and stares at who he now knows is in fact Gabriel. "What? How are you here?"
"Where? Your mindscape? Hardly a difficult feat. You do remember Lucifer doing the same right? I may not hold all the crazy power of my brother but I am still an Archangel."
"Mindscape?" Sam's voice comes out as unsteady as he feels. "This isn't…" He can't finish the sentence but the sudden flash of realization that lit Gabriel's eyes told him it didn't matter.
"The Cage?" Gabriel pauses to cast another look around them and his expression when he looks back at Sam is as pained as anything Sam's seen there before. "No, kiddo. You're not in the Cage, not any more. You're in your own mind now. You retreated back here as a safe place from the pain."
Sam very stubbornly didn't look at his supposed safe haven. This can't be true, why would he have the one place that represented every terrible thing to ever happen to him be his safe place? "I don't…why does it look like this?"
"I don't know. It is what you make of it and that's always changing. You could change it right now if you wanted." Gabriel took a step closer and Sam allowed it, not moving.
Sam's brows furrowed and he reluctantly looked behind himself, staring blankly at the endless dark.
"You can, Sam. You have to want it and you have to believe in it but you can change this."
Sam jerked back around to find that Gabriel had closed the distance between them and he suddenly caught the smell of cotton candy. It was a soft, beckoning scent in a place void of anything pleasant. He inhaled deeply, mostly out of surprise, and stared into the Angel's golden eyes.
"This place is not you. It does not define you. The Cage represents a horrible time but you have the ability to move passed it, if you want to." Gabriel reached out again and still Sam reared back but the Angel was too quick and before he realizes it Gabriel has a hand pressed to his chest. He's expecting a bursting flare of pain, something he's always associated with an Angel's touch or Grace. Instead it's nothing more than a gentle press on his skin, warm and solid in a way Sam hasn't felt in ages. His breath stutters behind his ribs and that former tingling sensation of power grew heavy in the air again.
Suddenly something wet is falling on him in a small, raindrop like fashion. Gabriel is smiling now and it lights up his face in a way that makes Sam want to smile too, for the first time in a long time. The splattering wet is more persistent and Sam reluctantly tears his eyes from that gold gaze to look up, stunned at what he sees.
There are rolling gray clouds far overhead, finally revealed and pouring rain down on them. Around them, the rain is dissolving the blackness, making the taint of pain, fear, and hate run like the drippings from a watercolor brush. Sam's breath leaves him in a rush and tears make his eyes shine as he turns a wondering look back on Gabriel.
The Archangel slides his palm up and around to grasp the back of Sam's neck, the path leaving his skin warm and buzzing, before pulling him down into a kiss. Gabriel tastes of sugar and clean rainwater and something that strikes Sam like redemption. Without even thinking he pulls Gabriel closer, clinging to the warmth and safety he feels only here and Gabriel holds him without complaint.
After some time the rain begins to lessen and Sam lifts his head from where he'd buried it against Gabriel's neck to look out again.
The clouds were a pure, cottony white again and had parted here and there to allow strong beams of sunlight and sky blue color to bleed through. The former black desert had been replaced with a field of grass, about knee high, that swayed with an invisible wind and was spotted with the occasional clump of brightly colored flowers. It was beautiful, a field of life he recognized as one he had admired while perched on the hood of the Impala with his brother at his side and a beer in one hand. And Sam couldn't help but notice that it was warm again, something that neither Lucifer or Michael had been able to replicate in all the times they'd messed with his head.
"This is you, Sam." Gabriel said softly, waving a hand at the field and curling his other at Sam's hip. "This has always been here and always will be, you might lose sight of it every now and then but you can always find it again. Have faith in this, have faith in yourself, Sam. We do."
Sam's pretty sure Gabriel is making that sound a lot easier then it really is but nods anyway, willing to at least maybe give it a try.
"Now you need to wake up so I can make it better and I promise you that it will get better." Gabriel has such a look of conviction and determination that Sam finds himself automatically believing him.
"Okay." It comes out as almost less then a breath but the Archangel smiles and Sam's face grows warm as Gabriel squeezes his hip, snaps with his other hand and Sam wakes up.
The pain is still there, that's the first thing he notices, but it's nowhere near as intense as it had been before. Slowly he puts together everything else. Sam's stretched out on his back in a bed and there is someone sitting right next to him, a press of heat against his side. He senses the comfortable, non-painful Grace of Gabriel close and relaxes slightly. Gabriel shifts next to him and Sam opens his eyes to stare into the Angel's honey gold and relieved eyes.
"There you are, Sleeping Beauty." The other teases gently, smirking.
Sam snorts, the most carefree sound he's made since resurrection, and presses his hand against Gabriel's knee as he tries to sit up. The Angel is quick to gently force him back down.
"Not yet, Sammy. You need a lot more rest before you'll be in any shape to get up and I'm not done yet either."
"Done?" Sam repeats with a lilt of questioning to his voice, allowing Gabriel's lingering hand on his shoulder.
"With healing you. Crowley did one Hell of a crap job and I'll most certainly be paying that little demon a visit."
Sam is pleasantly surprised and warmed by the genuine anger Gabriel expresses. "Was, was that real?"
"What? Being in your head? Yeah kiddo, it sure was. I had to get you to listen somehow." Gabriel says as he slides a hand down Sam's arm to lightly grasp the human's own.
Sam thinks he's beginning to understand what's been happening while he was gone and the thought of what his brother must have been going through causes him to take a look around. "Where's Dean?"
"He's with my little Bro to give us some time. Castiel knows that for this to work I need some one-on-one time with you."
Sam thinks about questioning that further but then a rush of warmth crawls lazily up his arm from where his skin is touching the Archangel's. He looks down at their joined hands and raises an eyebrow in surprise. "You're making the pain go away." He know he sounds shocked but there is little he can do about it.
"I told you Sam, I promised that I would make it better."
Sam does remember that now but he'd honestly never expected the Angel to actually come through for him. And now that he has, Sam is bewildered at why Gabriel would go to such lengths just to help him. He wants to ask but is almost too scared to know the truth, whatever it maybe, and tired sleepiness is now weighing heavily on him.
Gabriel gives a soft, amused snort and reassuringly squeezes his hand. "Sleep Sam. You need it and deserve it. Don't worry about any bad dreams either, now that I'm here I can sensor them for you."
The familiar warmth has become a full body sense of languid calm and Sam briefly fights the feeling enough to tighten the grip of his other hand on Gabriel's knee. "What about you? Will you stay?"
There must have been something in the way he looked or sounded because Gabriel stilled completely to look him dead in the eyes, searching them for something Sam was lost on. Finally Gabriel gave a small grin and nodded. "I'll be here when you wake up kiddo. Promise."
Sam's not sure that's exactly what he'd meant when he asked but it'll have to be enough for now because his eyes are sliding shut without permission and in only a few moments he's gone, lost in a dreamless, healing sleep.
Beside him, Gabriel continues using his Grace to thread together the jagged holes in Sam's soul. It'll be some time for it to recover completely but now that Sam's infused with his own Grace, the human is in no further danger. Gabriel lifts the hand not still holding Sam's to brush through the other's shaggy brown hair and he leans forward to press a soft kiss against his forehead.
"I'm so sorry, Sam." He whispers, voice ragged with emotion. "So sorry you had to face all that alone but it's over now and I'll never let you go back there. No matter what happens next."
Sam releases a soft sigh in his sleep and attempts to shuffle closer to Gabriel. The Angel pauses for a moment before relenting and allowing himself to curl up next to the youngest Winchester, hands still tightly clasped together.
When Dean and Castiel return much later, they make not a sound at the sight their brothers intertwined on the bed and instead share the only other one in the room. The Winchesters sleep peacefully as their Angels keep watch and swear, both to themselves and each other, to protect their humans forever.
There are still many obstacles to overcome and demons, literal and figurative, to face but those will all be taken care of in due time. For now, the four of them are simply happy to be alive and together, and for being gifted with this one last chance for peace.
Outside the small hotel, rain begins to fall.