Title: Who Toils Most To Go On

Summary: Written for the gabriel_bigbang. AU post 5.19, 'Hammer of the Gods.' Gabriel is brought before God to answer for all that he has done —for good and for evil. He is given one last chance to redeem himself, a task that ranks among the most important his Father has ever entrusted him with: Sam Winchester. Gabriel is confined to Purgatory —a place as changeable as it is dangerous to those not accustomed to its ways— along with the infant soul of the man who brought down the devil himself, tasked with mending it after its long ordeal in the Cage at the hands of Lucifer and Michael. Sam's work on earth is not yet done, and if Gabriel is to have any chance to return to Heaven and be restored, he must help Sam's soul to heal before Death thrusts it back into Sam's body —which still inhabits the surface of the earth— and in the process, maybe learn to heal himself.

Characters: Gabriel, Sam, (Dean & Castiel briefly, guest appearance by God)

Rating: PG-13

Wordcount: 19,574

Disclaimer: If Gabriel belonged to me, let's just say my life wouldn't look like this.

Warnings: Spoilers through 6.11. Serious, massive liberties taken with Christian canon. Swearing. Angst.

Neurotic Author's Note #1: Um. This may well qualify as the weirdest thing I have ever written. I am totally not sure what happened here, but, well, yeah.

Neurotic Author's Note #2: I blame Show for all of this. They had to go and bring up the concept of Purgatory, and I'm sure that what I wrote here has nothing to do with what it looks like in the Show.

Neurotic Author's Note #3: I owe undying thanks to my betas, kitty_z_finn and bellatemple, without whom this fic would be a total shambles. They stomped on all my errant commas (and believe me, there were a lot of them), pointed out all my spelling, grammar and syntax flaws (oh God), and most importantly told me exactly where the structure of my story fell apart abysmally. Hopefully I have fixed everything that needed fixing. Needless to say, all remaining mistakes are mine.

Neurotic Author's Note #4: Run, do not walk, to the artwork on LiveJournal by ani_bester, who went above and beyond the call of duty and produced EIGHT art pieces. Her line work is just gorgeous, and she has a sense of composition like you would not believe! Go forth and lavish praise! Shoo!

Neurotic Author's Note #5: And of course, all my thanks to the wonderful mods of the gabriel_bigbang and everyone who has worked tirelessly to make this project a success! Kudos to everyone!

Prologue —Penance

It's almost a relief to find himself before God. To be awash in his Father's presence, even though Gabriel has spent the last several thousand years trying to avoid anything to do with his family. In the end, though, he has always known that there is no escaping God. He's somewhat surprised to find he still holds the form of his vessel, but in a way he's glad, because it's familiar and feels right, even now —he even thinks of himself using male pronouns, as he has for centuries. His grace is a dim, distant thing —almost an abstraction— but he still feels like himself, and he's grateful for that. He holds himself very still and tries not to clench his hands, eyes downcast.

"Thy will be done," he says softly.

God doesn't speak, as such, but words make themselves known nonetheless.

Do you believe I should punish you, child?

"Aren't you going to?"

There's expectant silence. God doesn't answer to anyone, especially not his prodigal son.


And why should you be punished?

Gabriel has become accustomed to inhabiting a vessel that experiences emotion. His eyes sting and his throat closes up, and for a moment he's too overwhelmed to even contemplate answering.

"Father, please don't... please just tell me what you're going to do."

Child, I wish you to speak for yourself.

"I left. I forsook my duties, my responsibilities. My family. I turned my back to you, Father, and hid myself from your sight."

And you think these are the worst of your sins?

"It was as close as I could come to falling without doing so."

What of the rest?

For a moment Gabriel doesn't know what his Father is talking about. What worse sin is there for an angel than to disobey God? Than to fall from grace? He feels a tremor in the air around him, and cold begins to seep into his body, along with a host of memories —sounds and images, scents and textures, and the tremor spreads to his limbs until he's quaking. There is death all around him, the terrified screams of the dying, sobbing and begging. When he looks down his hands are covered in centuries' worth of blood, some old and clotted under his fingernails, some fresh and crimson and dripping from his fingertips.

"Oh, God," he chokes, goes to his knees as tears start spilling down his cheeks.

These are my creations, my children just as much as you are mine, Gabriel. What think you now of your choices?

Gabriel can't answer. He deserves death a thousand, a hundred thousand times over. He stays on his knees, hands at his sides, choking on sobs that keep welling up from somewhere so deep inside himself he can't identify what it is.


God is infinitely patient. He's waiting for Gabriel to do something, to say something, but it's been so long since he's been his Father's herald, so long since he's been the embodiment of the Word of God, that Gabriel doesn't know what his Father's will is any longer. All he can find in himself now is an endless font of tears.

Gabriel, your work is not done.

He looks up, surprised, even though God isn't right there before him, technically. He can't see Him.

"I can't... I can't make this right. I can't bring back the people I've murdered."

They are my charges now, child. You need not concern yourself with the past, save to learn from it. I see your remorse, and I accept your gift of it. Will you accept your penance?

For the first time in thousands of years he feels a glimmer of hope. "Yes, please. Anything."

This is not a charge to be taken lightly, child. This is your responsibility for as long as I choose. Do you understand?

He swallows hard. "I understand. What do I have to do?"

Stand, and receive what is given you.

His knees are all but giving out, his legs turned to water, but he pushes himself to his feet, shaking. There's another shimmering feeling, and the blood disappears from his hands. A small bundle appears in his arms, wrapped in a pale yellow blanket, and he almost drops it, catching himself just in time.

This soul will be returned to its earthly host, when your task is done. You must help restore it to what it was. Your salvation —your continued existence— is inextricably linked with it. Life for life, Gabriel. You must not fail.

He nods wordlessly. Pulling back a corner of the blanket, he's almost surprised to see a baby there —but for the fact that he really ought to have expected it. Life for life, he tells himself, and it all makes sense now. The baby mewls softly, then opens cloudy blue eyes to stare at him, and he feels his heart skip a beat as he recognizes the bright soul he has cradled protectively in his arms.

Sam Winchester.