The dull ache in Gabriel's chest subsided. He suddenly felt himself floating—no, flying—and his wings stretched out for the first time in a very long time, and it felt good. But that can't be right, he reasoned. I'm dead.
Lucifer, his own brother, had plunged that blade into his chest. Killed him. Scorched his wings into the floorboards underneath his now-empty vessel.
He was dead. What was going on? When an angel, even an archangel, died, that was it. The end. Nothing else. Human souls went to Heaven or Purgatory or Hell, but angels didn't have souls, they had Grace. Once they died, their Grace died, too, and then they were just gone.
So what was happening? He couldn't see or hear, but he could feel, and flying, soaring towards something—he could feel that.
Then, just as suddenly as the familiar sensation of flying started, it stopped and he landed, and he was filled with something he hadn't felt in millennia: Heavenly Grace. He knew this presence. Without conscious thought, Gabriel fell to his knees, his face to the ground. He still couldn't see, but he could hear now and could still feel, although it wasn't a physical thing he felt. He sensed it, knew it—there was no doubt in his mind. It was his Father.
"Gabriel, my child. I have missed you."
His throat tightened. He knew of his Father's unconditional love, but he'd never really been on the receiving end of it before this. His one true act requiring his Father's forgiveness had been leaving his family eons ago, and he hadn't returned since then. But now, he just knew that despite his long absence, He still welcomed him home.
"Father," his voice somehow choked out, but it was all he could manage. He fought the tears that pricked at his eyes.
"It is alright, Gabriel. I know. I understand everything."
Of course He did. He was his Father. He was nothing but love and understanding. Gabriel's heart almost burst.
"I could never be angry with you. I know why you did everything you have ever done. I have long since forgiven you."
Hearing Him actually say the words was too much. Gabriel wept now, telling himself he didn't deserve his Father's forgiveness, but He'd forgiven him anyway. It was a relief, a weight he hadn't felt until it had been lifted. He never knew how much he needed to hear it until he had. Why? Why would You forgive me?
"I am not done with you yet, Gabriel. I know what Lucifer did, but you are not done. I am the Lord, and as I raised Lazarus, as I raised Dean Winchester, so I shall raise you."
You're sending me back? He'd barely thought the words before his Father was answering them.
"Yes, Gabriel. I am sending you back to Earth. The Winchesters still need you, and you need them."
A thrill of hope ran through him at His words, but he didn't know why. Lucifer will kill me again once he finds out I'm still alive. Or Michael will. They'll rip me apart. They're gonna eat me alive.
"Michael and Lucifer will not discover you until you are ready. An archangel's presence would set off certain triggers, but I will it to not be so."
"Castiel will not recognize you. Nor will the Winchesters, or anyone else on Earth."
You're giving me a new vessel? He really hoped so. He was kind of sick of having to look up at most of the people he encountered. When he'd taken this vessel all those millennia ago, sixty-eight (well, sixty-seven and three quarters, but he rounded up) inches was on the low end of tall, and meeting someone taller than six feet was almost unheard-of. Now, it was on the high end of short, and he was annoyed by it. Now that his vessel had finally died, maybe he could get one that was a decent height.
"No, Gabriel. I am returning you in the same vessel. I am changing the memories of every living being that ever encountered you. They will remember the Trickster, Loki, the archangel Gabriel much differently than how you are."
Well, damn. The words flew out of his head before he could stop them, and he braced himself for an immediate smiting.
Laughter rang through the space around him and he slowly realized it was his Father's laughter. It filled him with more joy than truly comprehendible because he hadn't heard it in so long, and it was because of him that He was laughing. Very few beings could make his Father laugh like that, but Gabriel was one of them. "All these years, my child, and you still have not changed. I would not have it any other way. Anyone else would grovel, but you…" He laughed again, and Gabriel knew what He meant.
Anyone else would grovel. Gabriel would swear in front of his own Father. True, he had prostrated himself, but no one could help that reaction to His presence. He swore, and his Father laughed.
"Oh, Gabriel. I have missed you. Never forget that I love you."
The weeping threatened to start again. I won't.
"I command you, Gabriel, my child, to return to Earth and complete your mission. In return, you will be rewarded." Suddenly, Gabriel felt his Father's hand on his head. "Go now."
There was a sudden flash of light, and he felt himself falling.
There's a thundering sound. The smell of something smoking. A crash. Numbness. Seconds or hours or days or years later, the sound of sirens. The feel of scorched earth. The taste of ash.
The feeling of being jostled, moved. The sound of strangers yelling things at each other. The smell of what is supposed to pass as clean. Then, finally, the movement stops, to be replaced by a sharp prick of pain, then blissfully, nothing. Nothing except blackness and the steady sound of beeping. No pain, just dark and that one constant tone.
How much later it is, I can't say. It feels like weeks, but perhaps it's because I've been floating and drifting on a steady drip of painkillers with no concept of the time that's passed. Doctors come and I allow my eyes to open, taking in the sunlight coming through the window and the neutral blue of the room. I am asked if I'm alright, how much pain I'm in, what my name is.
I don't know.
The doctors and nurses seem astonished at my condition. They tell me that, upon my arrival, they took X-rays. I had no fractures anywhere. My heartbeat was strong. Brain activity was normal. No signs of internal bleeding. I was in perfect physical health, a scientific impossibility because, at their best guess, I was struck by a meteor. They say this trauma would explain why I don't remember anything—because I don't. I try to remember back before this room, and I remember nothing. It's like I've just been born.
I feel every second of the two days that pass between the day I open my eyes and the day the two young-looking men in suits arrive to see me. I have my eyes closed, attempting to sleep, until I hear one of them clear his throat. One's tall with a wide, well-muscled frame, brown hair that fell behind his ears, and soft hazel eyes. The other is shorter, but still tall, with a slim build, short sandy-brown hair, and green eyes that have seen too much. They flash badges that I don't bother to look at, and the shorter one says, "I'm Agent Lee. This is my partner, Agent Nicholson." He gestures to a glass of water on the table next to me. "Want some water?"
I don't answer. I just reach for it and drink it. Seeming satisfied, he says, "We'd like to ask you a few questions."
He's lying about their names, but he's not worried about getting caught. He's lied about his name so many times that he can effortlessly spill it. I choose to ignore it, though. "Sure, go ahead."
"Okay, what's your name?" the taller one, "Nicholson," asks.
I tell him the same thing I tell the doctors and nurses every time they ask. "I don't know."
He blinks. "You don't remember?"
"I don't know," I repeat.
"What do you know?" "Lee" asks.
"It's theorized that I was struck by a meteor, and I'm lying in a hospital bed, perfectly healthy except for being a blank slate."
"You don't remember what happened to you?"
"Sorry, boys. Nothing."
Nicholson and Lee exchange glances before the taller one says, "Anything else you might want to tell us?"
I nod. "Yeah. I want something to eat. Something sweet."
Apparently, after they leave, they tell one of the nurses what I said, because the next time a meal arrives for me, there's a small bowl of ice cream on the tray along with what passes for chicken and mashed potatoes. I ignore the rest of the food and scarf down the ice cream.
I tell one of the nurses I'm bored—actually, I think I whine that I'm bored—so she brings me a copy of the Bible. I read it even though it bores me. The authors skim over the interesting parts of the battles between the Israelites and the enemies of the day. Still, reading it gives me an idea. The next time the doctors ask me for my name, I tell them it's Gabriel but that I don't remember my last name.
I like the name Gabriel.
They ask me if I remember my birthday. I tell them I don't and later, when they leave, I mull it over. No date seems significant, so I let it go. I don't really care how old I am. I look fairly young—maybe thirty years old at the most—so I decide that, if anyone asks, I'm twenty-seven years old.
Three days after they first arrived, Agents Lee and Nicholson return, this time with a fistful of papers and determined expressions. The taller one speaks to several doctors and the shorter one enters the room and tosses a duffle bag at me. "Get dressed," he says. "You're being transferred."
He's lying. Again. I don't care.
I unzip the bag and pull out a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, shoes, socks, and underwear. Once I unhook myself from the few machines to which I'm still attached, I dress. Everything fits fairly well except the shoes, which are huge. Once I'm dressed, I stand up for the first time and he holds the door open. I exit first.
The bigger one is just outside the door, watching as a doctor signs something while she looks utterly bewildered. He looks at me, then at the other one, and once the doctor finishes flipping through the pages again, he picks the papers up and they escort me from the hospital.
They're both taller than me, I note with a small amount of dissatisfaction. It makes me feel like a child even though I look older than the bigger one, maybe both of them.
I wonder what's going on but don't bother asking. They'll lie to me. So I let them take me out of the building and into the parking lot to a black boat-like car creatively named Impala. The taller one opens the backseat door for me and I slide in. He gets in the passenger's side and the shorter one gets in the driver's seat, pulls out a set of keys, starts up the car, and pulls out of the parking lot.
Ten minutes pass in silence. I stare out the window, ignoring the way "Agent Lee" keeps peering at me in the rearview. Finally, I hear him ask, "So aren't you gonna ask what's happening?"
"Not if you're going to keep lying to me," I say, not looking at him.
I hear the bigger one chuckle softly.
"Alright, then. For real. My name is Dean Winchester, and this is my brother Sam. Do you still not remember your name?"
"I've been calling myself Gabriel."
They're both quiet for a few moments before Sam says, "So… Gabriel. What are you?"
It's such a strange question that I have to look at him. He's twisted in his seat to look at me. "What do you mean?" I ask.
"You're… you're not human. We're pretty sure, anyway. We saw the photos from where the ambulance picked you up and if you got hit by a meteor—and it really looks like you did—then no human could have survived it. But you don't have a scratch on you. So… what are you?"
Human? I don't know. "I don't know, boys."
"We know you're not a demon, at least," Dean says. "So that's a good sign."
"How do you know that?"
"The water you drank. It was holy water. Demons don't like the stuff, to say the least."
"We can't really think of a whole lot of things that could survive being hit by a meteor like you were."
"So what are your theories?"
Dean and Sam exchange a quick glance before Dean says, "An angel."
"I don't feel like an angel."
"Well, we'll figure it out," Sam says.
"Not like we don't have other crap to worry about," Dean grumbles.
"Why do you even care?"
"Because we…" Sam glances at Dean. "We're hunters. Monster hunters. Typically ghosts, demons, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters… all sorts of things that go bump in the night."
"And asshole angel hunters," Dean adds.
"Right. So… we can probably figure out what you are pretty quick."
I know I should feel worried, like these two are clearly insane, but I don't. They're telling the truth—at least they think they are—and I get the feeling that they're mostly there. "And decide whether or not I need to be killed."
They're both silent until Sam says, "I guess so, yeah. But if it makes you feel any better, I don't think what you are is evil." He smiles.
My heart swells until my chest hurts. I feel like I've seen that smile before. Without thinking, I smile back.
"Are you hearing any voices? Having visions? We won't think you're crazy or anything," he adds quickly, but I already know that.
"No. Just you. Unless you're part of my hallucinations, I think I'm okay."
Sam laughs and I want to laugh, too.
They don't ask me any more questions for another hour and I don't try to ask them anything. I watch the scenery roll by, wonder where we're going, decide I don't care. Finally, Sam asks, "Still want candy?"
YES! My head twitches toward the front and I hold out my hand in silent confirmation. He grins and deposits a candy bar in my hand. I barely register the word Butterfinger before tearing open the yellow wrapper. "Delicious," I say, earning another grin from Sam—and one from Dean, if the ghost of an expression across his face can be called a grin.
We stop at a seedy little motel an hour or so before nightfall. I stay in the car with Sam while Dean goes to the front desk to get a room. I get the impression that Sam has been assigned, by an unspoken command, to watch me, but I don't care to flee. I'm filled with such apathy for my situation that I wonder how I'm not dead already.
Sam says nothing to me as we wait for Dean to return, and I say nothing to him. Not because I don't wonder about him—because I do—but because I can't think of anything to say. But somehow, I trust Sam and his brother, so when Dean returns with two sets of keys in his hand, I follow them to the room.
There's two beds and a sofa and I can already feel that I'm going to be made to take the sofa—not that it matters. As Dean hauls a duffle bag to the bathroom and Sam flops onto one of the beds, I sit the couch and turn on the television, wondering if it'll jog anything in my memory, but it doesn't. The dancing images just annoy me, so I turn it off, lean back, and close my eyes.
I hear Dean sigh as he exits the bathroom and Sam stands and takes his place. They're changing out of their suits, which they've been wearing for the last six hours. I don't blame them—if I had been wearing those suits, I'd be dying to get out of them, too. It makes me a little happy that they gave me jeans and a T-shirt to wear.
Sam finally comes back out and there's an awkward silence until Dean breaks it, saying, "I'm getting food." Again, Sam is being left to watch me. As if I'll take off the moment I'm alone. I want to tell them that if I really cared to leave, I could do it with them watching me or not, that I could have just left the hospital whenever I wanted, but I don't. I could leave but I have literally nowhere to go. I don't even know where I am right now.
Without really waiting for an answer, Dean gets up, keys in hand, and leaves the room. He slams the door behind him, and the silence is so heavy that I barely hear the engine of the Impala turn over and the car pull out of the lot.
Sam doesn't look at me. If he's avoiding it or if he's preoccupied, I can't tell, but I decide I need to know a little bit more about whatever is going on. "So, kiddo, if I'm allowed to ask, where are you and Dean taking me?"
Sam gives me a funny look when I call him "kiddo," but it was either that or Sasquatch (I know he can't help it, but I still can't quite forgive him for being that much taller than me) and it seems easy to call him that. "To see a few friends of ours. Bobby and Cas. Bobby's pretty smart, a lot of experience with this whole hunting business, and Cas… well, he knows a lot about the supernatural, too. I think that with the four of us working on it, we can probably figure out who or what you are."
"And you're still pretty much convinced I'm not human?"
"Well, you look human, but that doesn't mean much. I mean, I guess we can't rule it out, but it seems unlikely. Really, though, I have no idea what you could be. It's probably nothing Dean and I have ever seen before."
"So…" I move to sit cross-legged on the floor across from him. "If I'm something bad, you're going to kill me."
He doesn't respond, but I know the answer is yes.
"But what if I'm… not bad?" I hesitate to use the word "good" to describe me. I don't really feel evil, but I don't feel like I'm good, either.
"I guess… depending on what you are, if you're powerful, we'll probably ask you to help us."
He bites his lip in a way that probably isn't supposed to be sexy but it is and so help me, I think I'm staring. Fortunately, he doesn't seem to notice; he's too busy weighing his next words. Finally, he sighs and says, "Averting the Apocalypse. I mean, it's already started, but we're trying to… I guess undo it."
"Yeah. Armageddon, the end of days, culminating in a showdown between the archangel Michael and his brother, the fallen angel Lucifer. We're kind of trying to keep it from happening."
"Are there other hunters helping you?"
"Kind of. Dean and I just have a particularly vested interest in preventing it is all."
Once again, he has that look on his face like he's trying to decide what to tell me and what to keep from me. I wait patiently, absently rocking back and forth, before he says, "Dean and I are supposed to be Michael and Lucifer's vessels."
I don't understand a word. "Come again?"
"Angels and demons are similar in that they can take control of a human body and basically live in them. We tend to call it a meat-suit," he adds with a half-grin. "But whereas demons can take possession of any person they want, angels have to have permission from the human. Lucifer has been trying to hunt me down because… well, he did find a vessel, some guy named Nick, but since Nick isn't his true vessel, his body is starting to deteriorate. Lucifer is too powerful for Nick. But I'm Lucifer's supposed true vessel, so if I say yes, he'll be free to wreak all the havoc he wants. And as for Michael, we haven't encountered him yet, but a bunch of other angels have been trying to convince Dean to say yes to him. I'm sure you can tell by now, but Dean isn't the type to just let someone control him. So we're trying to avert the Apocalypse to avoid either of us having to say yes to these feathery dicks."
I laugh at his description of them.
"Of course, preventing the decimation of most of the planet's population is also kind of a big incentive," he adds.
"So why you two? Do you know?"
"Y-yeah. We know. Dean inadvertently broke the First Seal, and I broke the last." I must have a blank look on my face, because Sam explains further. "There are six-hundred-some Seals—or there were—on the box that Lucifer's been in for the last I don't know how many years. To set him free and start the Apocalypse, only sixty-six needed to be broken. Any sixty-six would do, mostly, except for the first and the last which were non-negotiable. The first was a righteous man torturing souls in Hell. The last was the first of Lucifer's creations, a demon named Lilith, being killed."
"So… Dean went to Hell?"
"Yeah. He sold his soul to save my life. Then a year later, he got dragged into Hell."
"So how is he here now?"
"Our friend Cas got him out."
"That's a long story," he says after a moment. "I'll let him explain it when you meet him tomorrow."
"Oh. Okay. And so you killed Lilith?"
"Yes. I didn't realize that killing her was the final Seal. I knew she had something to do with it and we thought that she was going to break the Seal, so I decided to just kill her first. And then the goddamn Apocalypse started."
"Wow. You two have been busy."
He laughs mirthlessly. "Yeah, you could say that. Trying to run around, cleaning up after our mistakes." He's upset about something in particular, so I pry further.
"What? What is it?"
"Just…" Again with the "how much do I tell this guy" look before he finally decides to spill it all—or at least most of it. "If I hadn't broken the last Seal, none of this would have started. Lucifer wouldn't have gotten free. He already killed someone who really could have helped us out. I mean, he could be kind of a dick, too, but he was powerful and we could have convinced him to help."
"He was an archangel."
"An archangel? That's kind of trippy."
"I mean, there's only seven to begin with, and one of them is gone. That's… that's really messed-up."
"Yeah." Their names effortlessly pour out of my mouth. "Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Sealtiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel. If one of them is dead…" Then I notice the look he gives me. Pure confusion. "What?"
"How do you know that?"
I blink. How do I know that? "I… I don't know. I have no idea where that came from."
A beat before I ask. "Which one?"
"Which one, what?"
"Which archangel did Lucifer kill?"
He looks like he doesn't want to tell me, but he finally does. "Gabriel. Lucifer killed Gabriel."
The wrath and vengeance of Heaven is gone.
Where the Hell did that come from? "What a dick."
Abruptly, he laughs, and a warm feeling washes over me. "Yeah, I agree. He's a huge dick."
We pass a few more minutes in a companionable silence before Dean returns with a bag full of burgers, which he passes out, and a tray of drinks. He hands one to me and one to Sam, keeping the last one for himself. After a moment where it looks like he's trying to decide something, he fishes out something else from the bottom of the bag and hands it to me.
More candy. Another Butterfinger. I grin, ignore the burger he passed to me a few moments ago, and tear into it.
I'm right about the sleeping situation: Dean and Sam get the beds, and I settle into the couch. The lights flip off around ten and I roll onto my side, away from them, and run my fingers through my hair.
The first time I got a good look at my reflection, it somehow surprised me. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't what I saw. My hair is golden-blond, long, hitting the back of my neck before curling up a little at the end. I can't say I think much of the color, but it's soft, so I accept it. I like my eyes better, a dark green that could almost be called golden as well, but not quite. I think my favorite feature, though, is my sideburns. Before I forgot everything about myself, I had these sideburns grown out deliberately, and I like them. I decided almost immediately to keep them.
The worst part is the height, though. Man, I hate being shorter than most of the people I encounter. It's not fair.
Light breaks hours later, and still the Winchester brothers sleep on. I'm bored and toy with the idea of getting breakfast, but I don't have a wallet or money or anything on me, so I can't. I want to get out of here, I'm feeling restless and bored, but I can't go anywhere until the Winchesters wake up. I snap my fingers softly, strangely comforted by the sound.
Finally, at around eight, they wake up and stretch. I almost bound off the couch but resist the urge. I can't stop myself from bouncing on my feet, though. Sam looks at me and almost laughs. Dean looks at me and almost scowls.
"I think he's ready to leave," Sam says at Dean's sour expression.
"Yeah? Well, I am, too. Calm down," he says to me. I stop bouncing but start snapping my fingers anxiously again. Dean covers his face with his hands for a moment before mumbling, "I'm taking a shower," and heading off to the bathroom.
Sam curls back up under the covers and I start pacing the carpet anxiously. Sometime before laying down last night, I took off my shoes and socks, and even though the carpet looks dirty, it's actually clean, and I like feeling it under my feet. Fortunately, I don't have to pace long—Dean comes out of the bathroom about ten minutes later looking more awake than he did before. "Who wants breakfast?" he asks, clapping his hands together and rubbing them.
I could eat. I'm not exactly hungry, but something sweet sounds good. Then again, it always does.
They decide on IHOP, which is short for the International House of Pancakes, and while Sam goes for some omelet—something under the "low-carb" options—and Dean gets something with extra bacon, I order a stack of S'More pancakes and make it a point of asking for extra syrup. It's delicious but they stare at me while I wolf it down. I don't really care, though.
We're back on the road within an hour and I stretch out on the backseat, trying to get comfortable, but my back is sore right around my shoulder blades and I can't figure out why, except for maybe lying on the couch all night. It's the only explanation I can think of. I close my eyes and rest, but I can still hear them talking when they think I've fallen asleep.
"I'm not surprised," Sam murmurs softly in response to something I didn't hear. "I woke up a few times last night. I don't think he slept at all."
"Yeah, but he's with two total strangers. He probably thought—thinks—we're gonna kill him the moment we get a chance."
"We've had chances. We've had all the chance in the world to kill him."
"Yeah, but still. If I were in Gabriel's shoes, I probably wouldn't be sleeping so well, either."
I feel Dean's eyes on me from the rearview mirror, but I keep my eyes shut. "So, any more ideas on what this guy is?"
"I still think an angel is most likely, but apart from surviving being hit by a meteor, he hasn't shown any powers. Could he just be a really blank slate? I mean, Anna was—"
"Anna ripped out her Grace." Dean's voice sounds strained. "Then she was born as a human. She had Angel Radio in her head twenty-four-seven for a few months, but she did remember at some point. This guy says he doesn't hear voices. This meteor or whatever the hell it was hit him two weeks ago, and he's a freaking adult, not a baby. Yeah, he's a blank slate, but he probably isn't an angel."
"But Cas will know for sure, won't he?"
"I freakin' hope so. Any other theories, smart guy?"
"A human amnesiac."
Dean sighs. "Alright, fine. If he's human, he's got a family or friends or something. Call Bobby and have him check for missing persons fitting our guy's description starting around the area where he was found and working out from there. He probably didn't get very far from home when he was hit, so… I mean, someone's gotta be looking for him, right?" I notice that he doesn't ever say my name.
I hear Sam dialing and a moment later, he starts talking. "Hey, Bobby. Look, we found… well, we're not sure who or what he is. He's calling himself Gabriel."
"And that's another thing—" Dean starts, but when I peek from under my lashes, I see Sam waving for Dean to shut up.
"We need you to run a check on missing persons, just in case he actually is human." The distorted sound of someone asking something. "About five-foot-eight, maybe a buck fifty. Longer golden hair, olive-green eyes. No other identifying marks, no scars or tattoos or anything. At least, nothing that's visible in a T-shirt and jeans." More muffled words. "Yeah. We asked. He doesn't remember. Apparently, everything before the hospital is just gone. He's like a walking, talking newborn. No name, no age, no birth date, no memories." A garbled response. "I think angel. Dean disagrees, but doesn't have any counter-theories. Cas should be able to tell, though." Question. "I asked. He doesn't think he's not human, but he isn't sure." Another question. "Yeah, we're on our way now. Should be another couple of hours." Silence, and then Sam asks as if the idea just occurred to him, "Hey, so I have a question. What do you think about a fallen Trickster or something? A Trickster without his powers?"
Dean can't keep his mouth shut any longer. "Wait, really? I thought it was all the one guy, just… just Loki."
"Dean, shut up. Look," he says, to Bobby this time, "yeah, we thought all the Tricksters were actually just one being, but is it possible we were wrong? Maybe he had protégés or something? Maybe…" I hear his breathing hitch. "What if all the Tricksters just looked like Loki through some sort of binding magic or something, and once he died, the spell broke or something? I mean, he j…" His voice falters for a moment. "He just died a few weeks ago. So like if the spell broke and took Loki's image and his powers, it could theoretically wipe out all the Tricksters' memories. We should scour other hospitals to find out if there are others with the same thing turning up—blank slates, but perfectly healthy apart from that."
Loki? The Norse god? I'm completely baffled, but I manage to continue feigning sleep.
"Well, he's been eating sugary crap like it's going out of style. The Trickster had a sweet tooth. It's weird—it's the first thing he asked for at the hospital."
Bobby says something, and Sam answers with, "Thanks. Call us if you get any hits." He hangs up the phone and Dean says, "A 'fallen Trickster'? Really?"
"Dean, shut up."
"Are you trying to pin this back to him, or—"
"Dean, shut up." I can hear the pain in his voice, but Dean either can't or doesn't care, because he presses Sam further.
"You want him to be a Trickster, don't you? Even a Trickster without his powers. Because then you get to have a little piece of him again, don't you?"
"You have Cas," Sam murmurs softly, almost whining. "And you didn't get him killed."
"Neither did you."
A silence falls again, and my head is spinning. What's a Trickster? What does Loki have to do with this? And why does Sam seem to care so much about him? I try not to feel jealous because I don't know where it's coming from, but I can't help it. I just can't let them know. Resolutely, I keep my eyes closed until I feel the car roll to a stop a few hours later and the engine finally turns off. I sit up and hug my knees to my chest, looking around as Sam and Dean get out of the car. Dean walks up to the house that's in front of us, but Sam opens my door and says, "You need to come in, too."
I slink out of the backseat and follow him anxiously to the door. Dean's already inside and an older man in a ball cap with a scruffy gray beard is waiting just inside the hall.
"Bobby," Sam says, "this is Gabriel." He gestures to me. "Gabriel, this is Bobby."
I flash him a winning smile and he reluctantly shakes my hand.
"Thank God you two are back. That freaking angel is starting to get on my last nerve."
"He talking about Dean again?" Sam says, trying not to laugh.
"No, the talking I don't mind. You know Dean never shuts up. But it's the staring." Bobby pops his eyes wide and tilts his head to the side in what's probably an imitation of Cas, but I don't know since I've never seen the guy.
Sam actually laughs and leads me through the foyer into the living room.
Dean's in there, standing incredibly close to a man an inch or two shorter than him—but still taller than me, damn it!—with dark, messy hair and clear blue eyes. The first thing I register is the almost tangible bond between them; they care about each other a lot more than they let on to each other or even themselves, but they subconsciously feel it and gravitate toward each other. The second thing I register is that Cas—this has to be Cas—has an almost otherworldly air about him. He isn't human. I can feel it.
Cas's eyes flicker to me, and he pulls himself away from Dean and toward me. Dean's two steps behind him, though. Cas scrutinizes my face and I should feel uncomfortable under his gaze, but I don't. Finally he says in a sleepy, gravelly voice, "My name is Castiel. I'm an angel of the Lord."
I blink at him because, really, what am I supposed to say to that? "Um, hi, buddy. I'm Gabriel. I don't know who or what I am."
He looks me over again, and then without another word, he raises his hand and presses the heel of it to my forehead. My eyes drift close.
He's looking for something in my head. I feel the past six days rewinding, fortunately skimming past my jealousy over Sam's emotions, backwards through the car ride, the motel, the other ride, the hospital, the flash of light, and then… nothing. His hand leaves my face and I slowly open my eyes.
Castiel looks truly mystified. As he speaks, his eyes never leave my face. "There's nothing there. Just… empty. Like…" He mentally searches for an analogy, then finally comes up with, "Like when you rewind a cassette and you get to the very beginning and there's nothing beyond that."
I have no idea where he got this analogy from, but it makes sense.
"Do you recognize anything? Feel anything? He has an aura, doesn't he?" Sam asks.
"Every living thing has an aura. I don't know what Gabriel is, but I do know that he's not human."
"Well, that's one mystery cleared up," Dean says sarcastically.
Castiel's eyes widen a bit and he cocks his head to one side. I suddenly remember Bobby's impression and it's not a bad imitation. "I feel as though I have encountered your aura before, but I can't place it."
"An angel, maybe?" Sam asks.
He narrows his eyes a bit and shakes his head. "No, I would recognize another angel."
"How about a Trickster?" Sam asks.
Castiel contemplates it. "I cannot tell. It's possible. Then again, he could be vampire. I simply cannot tell."
"But I'm definitely not human?"
"Definitely not human," Castiel confirms.
That night, I'm relegated to the couch again. Sam, Dean, and Bobby all get beds but Castiel stays in the living room with me all night, just watching. I guess angels don't need sleep because we simply stare at each other for nine hours until the other three come back downstairs.
"Morning, Cas," Dean says sleepily, stretching as he yawns.
"He didn't sleep," Castiel says without preamble, still looking at me.
Dean suddenly looks more awake. "Didn't sleep at all?"
"Maybe he only sleeps during the day." Dean casts me a glance that somehow manages to be both concerned and suspicious.
"I don't get tired. The only time I slept was at the hospital under whatever painkillers they gave me. And I don't even think I actually slept."
"What about in the car yesterday?"
"I was awake," I confess, grinning. "I heard everything. What's Loki got to do with Tricksters?"
Dean groans in frustration and goes to report this new update to Sam and Bobby.
Castiel leaves the room—finally—and Sam appears a few moments later. "Hungry?" he asks me.
"I could eat." It's not a lie. I can always eat.
"Alright. I'll take you to get some breakfast."
I follow him out of the house, skirting past where Dean, Castiel, and Bobby are talking softly in the kitchen, and slide into the passenger's seat next to Sam.
"Dean let you drive his car?" I ask as he puts the Impala in reverse and pulls away from the house.
Sam half-grins. "Maybe 'let' isn't the right word… But I don't feel like driving Bobby's truck and it's the only other vehicle that actually runs."
I had noticed the cars piled up behind the house. Apparently Bobby runs a junk shop. I grin. "I think I like you, Sammy Winchester."
The smile slides off his face. "Don't call me Sammy," he mutters, looking more sad than annoyed.
"Sorry, kiddo." A tiny part of me wants to curl up in a ball and tell Sam how sorry I am for whatever it was I just did, but a much larger part has a question that I can't contain. "Why are you being so nice to me? Dean and Castiel—"
"I know. They're treating you like a monster, right? But I know how that feels. I mean, being Lucifer's true vessel kind of does that. Makes you feel like a monster. But I don't want you to feel lonely. You're all alone right now—who knows if you even have family?"
I try to force my grin to stay on my face. "So I guess Bobby's missing-persons search didn't turn anything up?"
"Out of all the missing persons in the country, not one is a five-foot-eight, hundred-and-fifty pound Caucasian man with green eyes, blond hair, and no distinguishing features. It's pretty amazing, actually. I thought for sure we would have gotten at least one hit, but it's like there's no one like you anywhere."
"There probably isn't," I quip, and I see a twitch that could be a smile on his lips.
There should always be a smile on his face. I would do anything for that smile, and that sudden realization shakes me. There aren't many things I know for absolute truth right now, but the fact that I would travel to Hell for that smile is one of them.
I try to crack jokes to keep him laughing or at least smiling all throughout breakfast—another stop at the International House of Pancakes. Sometimes the jokes fall flat, and sometimes we draw stares from how loud he laughs. By the end of breakfast, I learn not to joke about his mother (or anyone in his family, really) or Satan, but everything else is fair game. He laughs especially loud over any accidental (or intentional) parallels I draw between teenage girls and a certain pair of lovesick guys, one of whom happens to be his brother and the other of whom happens to be an angel.
"If a total stranger can tell they're crazy about each other, it's pretty bad," he laughs.
I want to ask him about this Loki character, what he has to do with whatever a Trickster is, maybe pry a little more into the archangel Gabriel, but if Sam is to be believed, Loki just died recently and it may be another sensitive subject, and he somehow caused Gabriel's death so that's out. I settle for just asking what a Trickster is, since that's what he thinks I am—or was—anyway, now that he's let go of this whole "probably an angel" thing he has. "So," I ask in a way that's intended to be obnoxiously casual. "What's a Trickster?"
"It's this creature that likes to play pranks on people. Sometimes it'll find a… bad person, I guess, and punish them by killing them in an ironic sort of way. Like… okay, the first time we ran into one, he was a janitor at this college. There was a professor there who had affairs with female students, and the Trickster didn't like it, so he created this girl who was supposedly a student of his, only she wasn't. She was based on this local legend of a girl who actually was having an affair with a professor and jumped out of window after he ended it. The legend was just a legend, though. Not real. Anyway, the professor and this illusion got a little… into it, I guess, and he ended up taking a swan dive out of his office window, too. Like the punishment fits the crime, that kind of thing. He doesn't always kill people, though. Like…" He casts his eyes down at the table, pushing at his eggs with his fork. "Right after we met this one, he also had this hazing college student abducted by aliens and put through basically what he put the pledges at his fraternity through. And this other time, he turned me into a car."
"I'm sure you had a lot of junk in your trunk." I don't know how I know that expression, but I have the feeling it refers to ones rear end and I've seen enough of Sam's—albeit through his jeans—that I can safely say I approve.
He snorts with laughter. "He likes pranks and mischief, and if you're a good person, they're mostly harmless, or at least don't cause permanent damage. He did kill Dean over a hundred times during this time loop thing he set up and threw me into."
"Sounds like there's only one of him."
"It seemed like it. Hunters have been 'killing' him for years because we thought there were a bunch, but apparently there was only the one. Dean and I were the first to encounter him more than once and he had the same form. But… but now I'm thinking they were all set up by Loki to look like him and there really were hundreds of them after all."
"And how does Loki tie into that? I mean, a Norse god? Sounds a little melodramatic," I joke.
"Tricksters are demigods. They all have—had," he corrected himself, "Loki's form. We think he was the original, the mastermind, the one who started it. And when he was killed, whatever spell or whatever it was that made all those people look like him, gave them his powers, we think it wore off and all the former Tricksters are returning to their original forms. Without their memories or powers, of course, but with a kind of imprint on them, which explains how you don't remember anything, don't have any powers, and don't look like anything we've ever encountered before."
I let this digest for a moment. "So there's a dead Norse god and a dead archangel. That's pretty impressive. What killed Loki?"
"Lucifer killed Loki and Gabriel? I would like to amend my previous statement. He is a massive dick."
"Loki and Gabriel were the same being, actually. He was Gabriel the archangel first. Then he left Heaven, left his brothers to their fighting, and reinvented himself as the Norse god Loki. Then, as far as we can figure, after the pagan religions started dying, he reinvented himself again as the Trickster and started creating other Tricksters."
"Still doesn't make Lucifer any less of a massive dick," I point out.
He half-smiles. "I agree with you there."
"So, what's 'Angel Radio'?"
He almost chokes on his bite. "What?"
"Yesterday, in the car. You and Dean were talking about someone named Anna who had 'Angel Radio' in her head. What is it?"
"Oh. Um, well, angels have their own language. Enochian. And since Anna had been an angel but didn't realize it, she could understand it, so she could hear angels talking. It got her locked up with a case of the crazies."
I want to laugh at his choice of words, but something tells me it would be a bit inappropriate, so I don't.
As we drive back to Bobby's, I decide I like the sound of Tricksters. Yeah, the idea of killing innocent people isn't great, but they were killing people who deserved it, and in a manner befitting their sins. They don't seem all that terrible to me, but I know better than to mention it to Sam. Even if he thinks I used to be one.
Then I realize that, if I actually was a Trickster, I probably killed people. I wonder how many evil people's blood is on my hands that I'm not even aware of. I wonder if I'm going to Hell until I remember that I'm not human, definitely not human, and only humans go to Heaven or Hell.
And then I wonder how I know that.
"What happens when Tricksters die?" I ask.
"Their bodies dissolve?" Sam half-asks, half-says. He doesn't understand what I'm asking. I shake my head.
"I mean, do they go somewhere else, like Heaven or Hell, or are they just gone?"
"I don't know. I mean, I assume a lot of the things we kill either go to Hell or just stop existing, but I don't know for sure. Cas would probably know better than me."
I nod and decide to ask Castiel about it the moment we get back.
As it happens, though, I don't get a chance. Dean apparently has issues with people taking his car without permission, especially when no one else knows they're even leaving in the first place. His first thought was that I'd kidnapped Sam and stolen the Impala, which is laughable.
Like I know how to freaking drive or something.
Still, seeing Dean running out the front door as we pull up, yelling something I can't hear but is probably cursing, forces my questions out of my mind. It's kind of hard to tell with whom he's angrier: Sam for taking the Impala or me for simply existing.
Castiel and Bobby finally calm him down, citing both Sam's lack of personal injury and the Impala's lack of new scratches or dings. When I follow Sam back into the house, though, I could swear he winks at me.
Sam and Dean go off on another hunt a few days later, somewhere just north of San Diego. They leave me behind with Bobby, though, which I try not to resent because this time they take Castiel. I could have forgiven them if they left him behind, too, but the fact that they just leave me kind of reaffirms in my mind that, while they think I am unusual, they don't think I'm useful.
Plus I was kind of hoping that their dynamic-duo thing meant no one else was allowed to hunt with them, but apparently they are. Just not me. The least they could do was teach me how to shoot or something. Maybe then I could be useful.
Because I want to help them. I really do.
Once they return from their hunt, tired and scratched up but thankfully in one piece, I bring it up to them. Bobby had been fairly open to the idea, considering they can't figure out what in Hell I am, and promised to back me up on it.
Sam and Dean settle in for dinner (Castiel just stands by and watches—he doesn't need to eat, either) when I say, pretty much out of the blue, "I wanna help."
Sam and Dean stare at me. "With what?" Sam finally asks.
"Hunting. Averting Armageddon. Whatever it is you're doing." I try to pretend I'm not looking at Sam the entire time I talk, as if he holds the entire outcome of this conversation in his hands. "I don't need to eat or sleep. I'm pretty much ideal for working nonstop—plus I can't just flutter off whenever I feel like it," I add, pointedly referring to Castiel's habit of doing just that; his face doesn't shift its blank expression at my words.
I also leave out the part where my upper back keeps hurting at random times. I figured it was laying on couches or on my sides for extended amounts of time, but maybe I just have a messed-up back. Or, even though the X-rays showed nothing wrong with me, maybe it's a result of getting smacked by that meteor.
I have Sam on my side. He wants to say yes. He looks at Dean. "Couldn't hurt. Who knows? He might be pretty handy with a weapon," he adds.
Dean eyes me suspiciously, as well he probably should. I wonder if maybe I was the Trickster who threw him and Sam in the Time Loop. "I don't know. Bobby, what do you think?"
"I think that the more people we have working on this, the better. Especially one that only requires a steady stream of sugar to keep working. I mean, I've tried pretty much every test I can think of on him, short of actually ramming a wooden stake through his chest, and it's not setting off any flags."
I turn my hopeful, pleading eyes on Dean and I sense his resistance crumbling. Finally, he sighs and says, "Alright, but I'm not teaching him to shoot. Someone else can do it."
Why does he have to call himself Gabriel? The thought suddenly appears in my head, but it's not mine. It's Dean's.
I swallow and tune back into what's actually being said just in time to hear Sam's question: "Gabe, have you even changed your clothes this past week?"
Like Castiel ever changes out of his business suit and trench coat? I shrug. "I guess not. I don't have anything else, though."
"Alright, fine. First thing tomorrow, we're getting you some more clothes. You can't wear the same thing every day."
I wonder what's wrong with my T-shirt. It's actually quite comfortable and has two guys with a cross in the background and the quote "Destroy all that which is evil so that which is good may flourish." At the very bottom of the cross is a small logo reading The Boondock Saints. I quite like it, even though I have no idea who or what The Boondock Saints are.
I suppose I do need a different pair of shoes, though. The ones I have are so big that I tend to just slip right out of them.
So the next day, I'm stuck in the backseat with Castiel because Dean decided that he needed new clothes, too, and Sam and Dean are in the front and we're heading off to the mall.
Once we get there, I want to drag Sam off to the food court where there's an IHOP Express, but I resist. Still, I can't help eyeing the machines that dispense various types of candies, and he notices. I hear him sigh, but it's not frustrated or annoyed, it's amused, and he pulls a few quarters out of his pocket and comes back with a fistful of candy for me. I start popping the fruit-shaped whatevers in my mouth and smile.
"Okay, where to first?" Dean asks, looking around. Castiel looks completely lost, also looking around, his eyes huge.
"I'm… not sure," he says slowly.
"Look, why don't you take Cas and I'll take Gabe? We can meet back here in an hour, okay?" Sam suggests, and I try to ignore the way my heart flutters. He wants to be alone with me!
"Yeah, but…" Dean looks around again. His eyes are getting wide, too. "I don't know where to go."
"Abercrombie & Fitch? I don't know, just walk around, and figure out what wouldn't make him look like an alien. If you get completely lost, call me." Sam glances at me and gestures for me to follow.
"Bye!" I say cheerily to Dean and Castiel and bound after him. "Where are we going?" I ask after we leave them behind.
"You look like a Buckle type of guy."
"Buckle jeans. And Spencer shirts."
Something catches my eye and I whip my head towards a storefront with a leather jacket in the window. "I want that," I say, pointing at it.
Sam looks, too. "Yeah, somehow I figured you would." He sighs again and acquiesces, following me into the store.
I have no idea what size I wear, so when I arrive at the rack of jackets matching the black leather one in the window, I grab one and slide it on. The sleeves are so long, they pass my fingertips. I hear Sam stifle a laugh and I turn, glaring. "What?"
"You look a little ridiculous."
I feel a little ridiculous, but I huff as though I feel completely normal, standing here in a jacket that's probably three sizes too big. Maybe four. Still, I slip it off and find a smaller size.
"Here, try this," Sam says, holding up another jacket that he got from I don't know where.
Even though my shoulder blades are starting to throb in protest, I let him help me slide it on and the fit is perfect. The sleeves brush against the heel of my hands and the shoulders curve right where mine do, but the bottom hem falls a little lower than I expected. It still looks really freaking good. Sam looks me over, front and back, and something freezes behind his eyes, but he nods. "Yeah, looks good."
I ogle my reflection in the mirror and I have to agree. "Yes, yes, yes! Can I get it?"
He half-laughs and I know I didn't even have to ask. Even if I didn't want it, he'd buy it for me anyway.
We leave the store with me wearing the jacket out and pulling the tags off after Sam's paid for it. I don't bother looking at the price tag—it's probably outrageously expensive and I really don't feel like feeling guilty right now—and instead look up at Sam. I'm still annoyed that he's eight freaking inches taller than me, but I hide it well. "So, I used to be a Trickster," I start.
"That's what I'm thinking."
"So what do Tricksters look like?"
"Like the archangel Gabriel."
I roll my eyes. "Well yeah, but I mean, what did he look like?" If I used to wear this guy's face, I want to know what I looked like.
He sighs. "He was tall—taller than me. Dark hair, dark eyes. He almost looked Italian. But he was really thin, too. It was weird."
I wrinkle my nose in displeasure. It doesn't sound right, but Sam's telling the truth. More than that, though, is that if he was taller than Sam, then so was I at some point. "Wish I still looked like that, then."
He doesn't know what to say to this, so I let him off the hook and instead stop short, staring at a display in the window in front of me.
"Oh, God, how did I know?" Sam asks, sighing in a resigned sort of way.
"Can we—?" I start, but he cuts me off.
"We're supposed to be getting you clothes. Not feeding your sugar addiction."
"Please?" I cajole, and he relents.
"Okay," he sighs, and he follows me into the Ghirardelli store.
When we walk out again twenty minutes later, I've started buzzing through about a pound of chocolate and I really don't care about anything else but it. Except maybe Sam.
And then I start thinking about drizzling chocolate over Sam and I have to get my mind off my twisted fantasies before I do something outrageous. While I'm preoccupied, though, he pulls me toward another clothing store.
Everything in Buckle, it turns out, is basically denim-themed. He manages to score three more pairs of jeans for me, all of which look good (to me, anyway—Sam doesn't answer when I ask for his opinion, which miffs me slightly), but I wear my first pair of jeans out of the store because I really don't feel like changing my pants right now.
"Now where to?" I ask, swinging the bag with my new jeans in it.
"Shirts, shoes, and then we should be ready to meet up with Dean and Cas again."
I almost forgot about them. Now that I realize my time alone with Sammy is drawing to a close, I want to drag it out, but I don't know how without being obnoxious. And as cute and endearing as I try to make myself, I sense that Sam is close to on his last nerve with me, so I let him herd me to Spencer's and we pick out about a dozen shirts for me.
After that, we head to a store called Journey's with shoes lining the walls floor to ceiling. "I figured these would probably be close to your style," Sam says, allowing me to wander away from him.
I examine a few shoes with the brand name Vans, but I don't like the slip-on style. I have a feeling I'd do more slipping off than on. Besides, if I have to run, shoes that lace up will be better.
I finally settle on a pair of black Macbeth shoes that, fortunately, fit me much better than the other ones do. And then I demand a pair of glow-in-the-dark shoelaces to go with them, which makes Sam laugh.
We meet up with Dean and Castiel shortly after. Castiel looks highly uncomfortable in his new jeans and button-down shirt, but both Dean and Sam insist that it's an improvement over his resemblance to a Holy Tax Accountant. I wonder what they did with his suit.
I cheerfully lead the way to the Impala as we head out to the parking lot, and I hear Dean sigh. "Really, Sam? Did you have to?"
I turn and Sam is looking sheepish, Dean is looking annoyed, and Castiel is giving me this penetrating look that lets me know he's looking right inside me. "What?" I ask.
"Your jacket," Dean says.
"What about it?"
He sighs and shakes his head. I look down at the front but see nothing, so I twist around to look at the back.
Oh. I hadn't seen it before, but there's a pair of wings on the back of my jacket. Angel wings, by the looks of them.
I shrug. Whatever.
Sam and Bobby scour police and hospital records for other guys with the same characteristics as my abrupt return to consciousness: found somewhere with evidence of what should be a fatal accident with no actual injuries, just a really strong case of amnesia. They find nothing, and I start to wonder if it was actually a meteor in the first place.
"Did they find any meteor fragments where they found me?" I ask Sam a few days later, sucking on a cherry Jolly Rancher.
"No, I don't think so, but apparently someone got footage of what looks like a meteor falling to Earth and landing basically where you were found. We got a copy, but…"
"It doesn't really look like any meteor I've ever seen."
"What do you mean?"
He sighs and hits a few keys on his laptop before turning the screen to face me. "Just look."
For a few moments, it's all just night sky, all stars and treetops. But then there's an echoing crack and a flash of white and gold light, and, distinctly, something hurtling through the atmosphere toward Earth. It's on fire, that's for sure, but it really doesn't look like a meteor. I can't really describe what it does look like, though.
It streaks out of sight, and then a moment later, a thud and another flash as it makes contact. Meanwhile, the girl who's been filming this lets out a soft scream. "Call for help! Call the police! Eric, just call—"
I lean back and whistle softly. "That's intense."
"Doesn't look like a meteor, though, right?"
"Right. Well, maybe we go back? See if we can find something there?"
Sam shakes his head. "Dean and I scoured every inch of that place. There was nothing there. Maybe someone picked it up already, but when we went there to look it over, there was nothing but a crater."
Dean swaggers into the living room suddenly and hovers over me, tapping something in his hand. "Since you're basically part of our team now, Sam and I figured you'd need this." He drops two small plastic rectangles onto the table next to me and I pick them up, eyeing them with interest.
One has my picture on it, along with the name Gabriel Richard Campbell, a date of birth that says I'm twenty-six years old, and my height and eye color. A driver's license. "You teaching me how to drive?" I ask, flashing him a mischievous smile.
"Yeah, no, definitely not. I would not trust you behind the wheel of a car," Dean snarks.
The other card is a credit card with the name Gabriel R. Campbell. "How'd you come up with Richard, anyway?"
"Hell, I don't know, we just picked a name, okay? What, do you not like it or something?"
I shrug. "It's fine. I just wondered, that's all."
Dean scoffs but wanders back out. I flip over my new driver's license—not that I can drive—and bite through the Jolly Rancher. "Well, at least it's a good picture," I say, holding it next to my face and smiling like in the picture.
"Yeah. We're gonna get you an FBI badge and a few others, too. Hopefully you can fake a fed better than Cas can. He can be a bit oblivious at times."
"That whole angel thing?"
"Yeah. He doesn't understand the necessity of deception sometimes."
I nod and start watching the video again. Bobby interrupts, though, dragging Dean and Castiel into the room behind him. "Found you another job. Another Lucifer sighting." He glances at me. "Maybe you shouldn't bring him along, though."
"I can handle it. Besides, Castiel is coming, isn't he?"
"I can't be responsible for your safety," he says.
"Hey, listen, we can't even figure out what I really am. If I get… ganked or whatever, how big of a loss is it? I mean, really?"
Dean looks uncomfortable. "As crazy and unbalanced as what you said sounds, I have to agree."
Sam's torn. He doesn't want me in danger, but he does want to see what I can do. In the past three weeks, I've shown a bizarrely remarkable proficiency in weapons handling. I'm not sure what I used to be before I wound up in the hospital, but I'm pretty sure I was a soldier somewhere.
And I want to fight.
He's the deciding vote. Dean and I are in favor of me going, but Bobby and Castiel are against it. Sam finally looks at me and says, "If you can't hack it, if no one is around to bail your ass out, your death is a very likely possibility."
As if I have anything else going on in my life. I shrug.
"Okay. Then fine. I say yes."
There's another flash, a puff of smoke, and this demon they call Crowley is suddenly standing in Bobby's living room. I almost topple over—the guy's face is grotesque—but no one else seems to notice, so I keep it to myself. He's the first demon I've seen, so I figure all of them probably look like this, but no one warned me.
So of course, once he gets his bearings, I'm the first thing he focuses on.
"What's this, boys? Got yourself a new member of Team Free Will?"
"Yeah, and?" Sam asks, defensively taking a step toward me.
Crowley narrows his eyes as he looks at me. "But what the Hell are you?"
"Great, even you don't know. Wonderful." Dean crosses his arms over his chest. "Well, we were hoping you might be able to help us—"
"The great angel Castiel won't tell you?" Crowley asks, malice practically dripping from his voice.
"I don't know what he is," Castiel clarifies.
"So, recruit, what's your name?"
Crowley's eyes widen a bit. "Named after the recently-deceased archangel? Nasty. How've you been doing with that, by the way, Sammy?"
Sam half-glances at me, just long enough for his eyes to lock with mine, before he looks back at Crowley. "Screw you."
He just laughs as the world tilts away from me.
A broken vessel, wings scorched. Lucifer standing over the empty shell that used to house his brother. It was Gabriel, right? But that doesn't look like the great archangel Sam described. That looks like—
My eyes snap open and I'm staring at the ceiling. I must have crumpled to the floor. My back is killing me. I feel something in me, pounding, trying to break free. The truth, scratching at the wall in my head, screaming "I'M HERE! COME AND GET ME!"
But what's going on? I flinch as Sam gingerly helps me to my feet and I struggle to remember what I just saw, but I can only catch pieces. The face of Lucifer's vessel Nick flickers. A blue light. A shearing agony in my chest that doesn't only come from being stabbed through the heart.
I rub my chest to make sure I'm not actually bleeding. Crowley's gone and I wonder how long I was out of it until I register Sam's eyes looking me over with concern.
"What happened?" I ask.
"Did he do something to you? It… For a second, it looked like you were possessed," he says.
"I don't think he had anything to do with it. Where did he go? What happened?"
"Looked like a seizure," Dean says, finally looking concerned. "Your eyes rolled back and you dropped." He looks back at Castiel. "Can you…?"
But Castiel is already striding forward, hand outstretched, and I brace myself for the same bit as last time. It comes, but I don't see anything new, anything I don't already remember from what I just saw. Still, when he pulls his hand away, his face is stunned. "When did you see Lucifer?"
"I don't know, okay? When I saw him—"
"Lucifer? You saw Lucifer?" Sam demands.
"Briefly. I know I saw more but it vanished. I don't know what else to tell you."
Sam sighs. "Great."
"You know," I say suddenly, feeling my temper flare and I'm unable to curb it, "I bet that mutton-head douche nozzle did do something to me."
Sam starts laughing but quickly curbs it, but my temper subsides at the sound.
"You mean Lucifer or Crowley?" Dean asks. "Because if Lucifer—"
"I meant Crowley." I sigh and run my fingers through my hair. "I just really wish I knew what was going on." How do I tell them how close I was? That if Sam hadn't brought me out, I could have remembered everything? That when I think of Lucifer, I don't have the same shudder of revulsion run through me as they do, but an aching kind of sadness, a desperate feeling of betrayal? "Maybe I should just sit this one out," I murmur. "Until I get a better idea of what I really am, you know?"
Castiel's look is inquisitive, but Dean nods. He doesn't look happy, though. "Yeah, I guess so."
I don't want to be here with all their prying eyes on me so I turn and head out the back door. Before too long, I'm weaving through stacks of cars and trying to comprehend what I just saw.
Lucifer was important to who I was. I can feel that much. But how—that, I can't tell.
I lean back against a pile of cars and finally sink to a sitting position. Why can't I remember anything? I want to scream. I try to scratch at the wall in my head, try to tear it down, but I don't get anywhere with it.
I could be ageless for all I know, hundreds of thousands of years old, and I wouldn't freaking know because of that stupid meteor or whatever it was that struck me. And how was I out in that field? How was it me that was hit? Of all the things that could have been hit, why me?
Somehow Sam snuck up on me. I turn to look at him, hoping it my frustration doesn't show on my face, but it probably does because he sits down next to me.
"Hey," I murmur, drawing my knees up to my chest.
"How are you doing?"
"I'm… I'm okay I guess."
"What happened in there?"
"You know what happened."
"I mean, what did you see?"
"Lucifer. I don't know, I just feel like I knew him. He was important. I don't know how."
"You'll remember eventually."
"I'm not so sure."
"You already remembered Lucifer. That was more than you knew when we first met you, right?"
He has a point. I nod slowly. "Yeah, I guess."
"It'll be okay, Gabe. You'll remember. I'm sure of it."
I nod again, just humoring him. If I really was a Trickster, how did I know Lucifer?
His arm slides around me and I feel myself leaning into him. "What if I don't, though?" I ask.
"You will," he insists. And then he turns his head to mine. His lips touch mine, gently, and for the briefest of moments, my heart stops. But then it starts up again.
I'm hurtling toward Earth. I've been pushed, shoved through the atmosphere and I'm free-falling. I numbly feel the impact, barely have time to wonder what's happening, when I black out. When I wake up—really, truly awaken—I'm in the hospital.
And I remember nothing.
"Sammy," I whisper.
His eyes open, confused. "What?"
"I remember… something. That footage. Let me see it again."
Five minutes later, I'm staring numbly at the screen. Whatever it is that's hurtling toward the Earth—I know now.
"What?" Sam asks, noticing my expression.
"That's not a meteor."
"Do you know what it is?"
I hit pause and point. "That's me."