Whatever Dean was dealing with, Sam knew he had to deal with it on his own. Which helped a little, since he had enough to worry about. Sam cast a glance over to the collection of empty bottles that sat on the floor in front of his bed. He wasn't drunk. Not really. He was just… ineberated. Inberiated. Something like that. He'd drunk enough to finally let the prayer leave his mouth.

"Gabriel." He muttered, the night thick and heavy around him. There wasn't even a breeze; the air just hung quiet and still, passively suffocating the hunter. He longed for the days when he used to sleep. "Gabriel, I know you can hear me. Please?"

There was a flutter of wings, briefly disturbing the stagnant air. Gabriel looked around Sam's room.

"Nice. Twelve year old chic."

"I need to talk with you." It was one in the morning, but Sam was still fully dressed. He hadn't had time for sleep. He'd been too busy drinking. The house was still and silent around them, forcing him to whisper. He needed this moment, just the two of them, no interruptions.

"What's on your mind, bucko?"

"Drop it." Sam sighed, weary and frustrated and feeling far too suffocated by the lack of airflow to put up with Gabriel's performance. "Drop the act. I don't want to talk to Loki; I want to talk to Gabriel."

Gabriel narrowed his eyes for a moment, but nodded slowly, straightening up.

"What do you want?"

"If you're going to say no…" Sam watched Gabriel carefully, his eyes still adjusting to the dark, and not at all swimming with the alcohol he totally wasn't that drunk on. "When Hella comes back, if you're not going to do this, then I think you should leave now. It's not fair on her, to make her go through all this and then turn her down. So if you're going to say no, you should leave now."
Gabriel didn't move. He watched Sam carefully.

"Is that it?"

"What do you mean?"

Gabriel shrugged.

"It's a fair point, and I see why you would make it. But… My business with Hella seems to be a matter of great concern for you, Sam. Is there some other reason you're giving me the ol' 'shape up or ship out'?"

Sam stared at him, his mouth suddenly very dry. It was the air, the lack of air.

"I just… I'm fed up of people lying to me. To us. People are always lying, promising one thing and doing another. I'm tired of it."

"I know you are, Sam." Gabriel stepped towards him, his eyes soft with concern. "I'm not going to back down this time. I'm not." He rested a cautious had on Sam's arm, locking eyes with him. "See, people like us… the runaways, the disappointments… we can make it right. But it's harder for us. No one's going to help us, or do it for us. If people like us want change, we have to work. And myself, I've always been more a fan of play."

Sam looked down at Gabriel, very aware of how close they were, and how his throat wasn't getting any less dry. He felt like the world was dipping and folding around him; it was because of the lack of airflow, he kept reminding himself.

"I've always run away before now. You're right. But I'm different now, I've made my stand. I'm a good guy now."

Almost without being aware of it, he took Gabriel's hand away from his arm and held it.

"You can see the future, right?"

"Sometimes."

Were they whispering? The noise was oddly muffled in Sam's ears, and he wasn't sure whether his brain was playing tricks on him. He felt kind of like a large part of his brain was no longer turned on, what with the dry throat and the world dipping out around him and he was so close to Gabriel and damn the lack of airflow.

"Can you see what will happen?"

"I can see what's most likely to happen. It can change, though." Gabriel smiled. It was a weak, shaky smile, but a genuine one. "You know, just as I stood up to Lucifer, the last thing I saw before I died… I saw the future. I saw Dean and Castiel in the world after the Apocalypse. I saw you going down into the cage. Sam…"

"Don't talk about that." Sam swallowed, wishing his head would stop spinning. The last thing he wanted to hear right now was Gabriel whispering sympathies about the Pit. He looked into Gabriel's eyes, seeing so many different emotions flicker through them. "Can you see… will you be alright?"

Gabriel sighed, his hands wrapping around Sam's.

"Honestly? I've got nothing. I can't see anything."

"So… if Hella comes back tomorrow, this could be your last ever last night on Earth." Sam tried for a smile, but it was weak. Gabriel returned it though, his smile filling Sam with a kind of warmth and hope, and the unbelievably powerful sense that he didn't want Gabriel to go. He had seen it before, the briefest glimpse of it, sympathy, empathy and comprehension, when he had tracked Gabriel down at the Mystery Spot. But now it wasn't masked with sadism or disinterest. This wasn't Gabriel pretending to be anything other than what he was; It was pure, and right there, and it told him that maybe, just maybe, things could be ok.

"I don't…" Gabriel started, but he was cut off when Sam leaned in and kissed him, gently, carefully. It should have been wrong. Sam had never gone for guys before, save a brief experimental phase between high school and college. But Gabriel was so much more than some guy.

The archangel pulled away, fixing Sam with a sad, curious look.

"You should only do this if you really want it."

He wanted it. He knew that much. Being with Gabriel, talking to Gabriel, Gabriel, Gabriel… it was all he'd been able to think of. He couldn't say how long he'd want it for, or how much he'd regret it come morning, but that wasn't the part that mattered, not right now. He knew he wanted it. He just didn't know what it meant.

"Tonight." Sam muttered, pulling Gabriel closer. "Just for tonight."

Gabriel nodded, running a hand through Sam's hair.

"I can do that. For you."

(-*-)

Hella stood in the kitchen, her face and her mind set. She had wandered, hidden, through the junk yard, feeling the sense of sadness she could pick up on the old abandoned cars. They were carcasses, carrying with them the ghosts of better times. She had thought about everything and nothing. And now she stood in Bobby's kitchen, waiting for everyone to make their way downstairs.

Bobby was first. When he saw Hella, he briefly blinked in surprise and relief, before asking if she wanted any breakfast and acting as if nothing had happened. She appreciated it.

Then came Dean, who smiled at her, mumbled a "you had us worried", and clapped her on the arm. She was touched by it.

Gabriel appeared next, a curious expression on his face, only for a moment, as it washed away when he saw his daughter. He hugged her. She asked him to stand back, because she needed space if her mind was going to work clearly. Gabriel backed off respectfully.

Finally, Sam joined them, looking like he was still half asleep. He smiled when he saw Hella, but he stopped and leant just inside the kitchen door. While everyone watched her with anticipation, Sam watched with something closer to dread. For a moment, she considered asking him what was wrong, but she had more important things to discuss.

"Do it." She turned to her father, with a grim smile of determination. "I'm ready." Gabriel blinked at her for a moment, before pulling her into another hug. He pressed his lips to her forehead, his eyes closed. It had taken Hella so much strength to say those four words, and now Gabriel rewarded her with such love and approval that you could almost forget they had spent fifty years apart.

Sam watched the archangel with a heavy heart.

They would tell no one about last night. It never happened. Now Gabriel would go off and do his ridiculous, suicide mission, and eventually, Sam would start believing his own lie. His head still ached from the hangover that had delighted in punching him awake, and now, having Gabriel taken away from him before they'd even managed to talk…

"And…" Hella pulled back from the hug, glancing around at Sam and Bobby, fixing Dean with a brief stare, before looking up at Gabriel, her face the epitome of honesty. "When you bring Castiel back. I want you to put my grace in him."

Gabriel blinked at her, running a hand over her hair.

"Hella, sweetie, no. That… I can't do that."

"You can." She nodded. "And you should. Castiel, like you said… he won't be happy as a human, right? Put my grace in him."

Gabriel seemed stumped for a moment, and looked to the others for help. He looked to Sam.

Sam said nothing, watching the scene unfold before him with quiet despair, wishing for all the world he could just put up a wall and detach himself from it. He didn't know what he was supposed to say; he didn't know what he could add to this situation. It was Dean who broke the silence.

"No. Cas… he'll understand. This is a consequence of his actions. I'll… I'll make sure he sees it that way."

Gabriel turned to Dean, giving him the sort of look that angels were supposed to give; one that rewarded penitence and calmed worry. It wasn't as powerful as the looks Sam had seen though, the looks Gabriel had kept just for him.

Hella looked from Dean to her father, giving the latter another hug. Gabriel let out a breath, and nodded. He looked slightly shaken, as the reality of his agreement hit him.

"Ok. Looks like I've got an angel to catch… I'm trusting you boys to look after my daughter as well as you look after yourselves. Better, in fact, given the tendencies for self-medication."

Sam nodded, before leaving the kitchen. He couldn't see it happen. He couldn't watch Gabriel tear his daughter's grace out, he couldn't watch Gabriel leave. It was just too much. Air. He needed air.

"I'm sorry." He mumbled, as he strode into the back yard, feeling the cold air clear his head and calm his heart. He knew Gabriel could hear him. "I can't watch you do this. You should. Of course, but… don't make me watch. Just… be safe."

"I know." Gabriel's voice was strong and clear in his mind, making him jump. "Thank you, Sam. You are loved."

Sam stared over the scrap yard, trying to stop his breath from catching in his chest.

How was this his life now?

Seriously.

"Sammy." Dean slammed through the door, clapping his hand on Sam's shoulder. "Gabriel's given us an address. Apparently, he had to take Hella some place no one will see it happen, freaky angels and blinding lights. He says by the time we drive there… You ok?"

"Yeah." Sam sighed, shaking his head. "We got time for breakfast?"

"Gabriel left us some in the kitchen." Dean gave him a suspicious glance. "Seriously. What's up?"

"Nothing. Just… slept weird." Sam shrugged, forcing a smile as he started back to the kitchen.

(-*-)

Gabriel held his daughter's hand. It was a secluded spot, no roads, no travellers. Just soft desert sand as far as the eye could see. He would take his daughter's grace here, with the soft peaks of sand being slowly pulled by the wind in an eternally shifting landscape.

When he got back, if he got back, he would show her the wonders of the world, and tell her the stories behind them. He would take her all around the universe, if it made her smile.

He fought against his paternal side, which screamed at him not to do this, he couldn't do this to his little girl…

He cleared his throat, gripping her hand.

"I need you to lie down, Hella."

She looked at him with eyes so warm, so trusting… When Sam and Dean had first met him, they'd thought he was a monster. He'd seen them look at him like he was a monster, and it had taken them two tries to get him to stop hiding behind that mask.

His daughter, however, just had to look at him with those calm, trusting eyes and she could make him feel like the most hideous monster to ever exist. She nodded, and lay on the sand. Gabriel struggled to remain in control.

"What's going to happen is… I'm going to put you to sleep, and when you wake up, you'll be either in a motel or with Sam and Dean. They'll keep you safe, ok?"

Hella nodded, concern gracing her features as her father fought against the urge to hold her tight and snap them both someplace else. He smiled, or he hoped he did.

"Now… this is going to hurt, sweetie. It'll hurt a lot less if you're asleep, but… it's still going to hurt. For a few days, maybe. I'm sorry, Hella, I wish I could make it so it didn't hurt…"

She gripped his hand, staring up at him.

"It's ok."

"You've been through so much already, I can't…"

"It's ok." She repeated, and smiled at him. "I'll always want you to come back."

Gabriel nodded, taking a deep breath. He brushed two fingers across Hella's forehead, watching as she drifted from consciousness. Placing a hand on her stomach, he steeled himself for the hurt he was about to do both of them.

Blinding light.

Burning heat.

Hella writhed and twitched in agony, her mouth forming wordless screams.

For a moment, they were both like bolts of lightning.

Then, they were gone. The scorched black the only signs they were ever there, slowly being covered by the eternally shifting, wind-whipped sands.