Gabriel smiles at him, smug and satisfied, gaze full of love, and he wishes that this could be it, that this could be his—but though Gabriel is looking at him, smiling in a way that makes his heart race, Gabriel's not smiling at him; he's smiling at someone else who shares the same face. It's pointless to feel this way, he knows. What use is there to feel jealous of himself?
He grits his teeth when Gabriel tucks his head in the hollow of his neck and sighs. Gabriel lifts his head to look at him. "Sam?" he asks, tone flickering between concern and flippancy.
And he hates it, hates being called Sam when it's someone else's name, someone better than him, someone complete and whole. Someone who loves and is loved.
Abruptly, he stood. "I'm going for some air," he said stiffly, awkward and shy around the archangel in his bed that he desperately needs to love. Gabriel tilts his head at him and settles back onto the pillows, waving a hand dismissively.
He goes, fighting down the rush of fondness that sweeps through him at such a Gabriel-esque motion. Outside, he absentmindedly rubs his bare arms in the frozen air. He doesn't actually feel that cold, but he's aware that that's what people do. Shiver and wrap their arms around themselves, tuck themselves into warmth.
Every time he thinks of Gabriel his body reacts the same way. It's a pleasant feeling and he certainly enjoys the benefits of that feeling when followed through, but it always leaves him feeling bereft and empty afterwards.
He looked up at the stars and feels the ghosts of someone else's memories pressing in his mind. He wonders if Gabriel knows if he considers himself a separate person from Sam.
He wonders if Gabriel would smile at him the same way if he knew.
"I love him," he tells the stars, the cold night air, the rustling trees. "I love him," he murmurs to himself.
"Gabriel," he says quietly, and the archangel's golden-brown eyes open to look at him sleepily. "I thought about what you guys have been saying. Could you—I think I'd like my soul back."
Gabriel is alert in a flash, mouth curving in a grin. He wants to touch those lips, wants to run his fingers through the soft brown hair, but restrains himself. He's made a decision and he's going to stick by it, even if it shatters him that Gabriel never even truly loved him.
"I'll just go and get it then," Gabriel says. "Does Dean know yet?"
"No," he says, "I should—I should go tell him, I guess." He doesn't want to go. He wants Gabriel to ask him to stay. But then something the archangel said hits him. "What do you mean, you're gonna go get it?"
"From the cage, of course," Gabriel says. "That's where it is, after all."
He feels cold fear grip him, for the first time not for himself but for another person. Is this what it feels like to have a soul? he wonders. To feel, to care for others?
"Michael and Lucifer are down there," he hears himself whisper.
There's a glint of otherworldly light and Gabriel's gripping his blade. "I know," he says grimly, Trickster mostly gone, and he's all Archangel—glorious and dangerous and untouchable. Then he softens. "Don't worry Sam. If there's anything that's worth going willingly to the cage and facing my brothers again, it's you." Gabriel places a warm hand on his shoulder and he leans in, forgetting about his promise to himself, to Gabriel, and Sam.
But Gabriel puts a finger on his lips and smirks. "There'll be time for that later, don't you think?"
A flutter of wings, and Gabriel's gone.
He stays like that, motionless, heart aching with more pain than he's ever experienced. In a few turns of an hourglass, he will cease to exist, and Gabriel will have his rightful love back. He presses his nose against the warm spot on the pillow that still smells of Gabriel.
Apparently it's not necessary to have a soul to love someone with the whole of his entire, broken being.