A/N Greetings, earthlings. I don't have much to say here, other than the fact that I'm sorry this ended up being angsty- I swear, I intended this to be pure reunion fluff, but that didn't work out so well, needless to say. Damn. Aaaanyways, hope you enjoy it anyways, and please review~! OH AND ALSO I put the most amazingly un-subtle Avengers reference ever in here. Just because I needed more connections between Gabe and Marvel!Loki. I'm such a stupid fangirl, my god.

Rated T for language... and... kissing, I guess? Ffff.

Disclaimer I don't own Supernatural or any associated characters, events, etc.


FORGIVEN

You gave up the fight, you left me behind
All that's done's forgiven
You'll always be mine, I know deep inside
All that's done's forgiven
~ "Forgiven," Within Temptation

For once, Sam isn't thinking about him, and maybe that's what makes his appearance all the more jarring.

It's damn rare for the younger Winchester's mind not to be fixated on Gabriel, especially since the run-in with Lucifer and the DVD containing the archangel's final message. Of course, his mind was occupied by the 'Trickster' plenty beforehand, but it was a vague sort of obsession, something that lingered around the edges of his mind and slunk through his subconscious, so that he found himself turning to the thought of the Loki-like being whenever his hope was running out, almost as one would rely on a god. He's not sure why it was Gabriel of all people who managed to capture his respect—after all, the angel (who he'd then thought to be nothing beyond yet another mythical creature) was dirty,he was loud and flamboyant and he flirted and drank and fucked and killed with casualty that Sam only ever had reason to be disgusted by. He'd tormented Dean, tormented Sam, he'd killed multiple people and the only thing that he seemed to have a genuine attachment to was freaking chocolate bars.

But he was powerful. God, he was powerful, and Sam Winchester admired power, he reveled in it and looked up to it and couldn't resist the excitement in his chest and stomach every time he found himself confronted with its touch. Not just any creature could create as vivid of hallucinations as the slow-dancing aliens, nor could they forge a time loop that murdered a single man over a hundred times, let alone create a fictional reality and place two living beings—three, with Castiel—in it so that he could sit back and watch them humiliate themselves over and over and over…

It only made sense, in the end, when the truth came out. Gabriel, alright? They call me Gabriel.

Of course it would be an angel, and Sam was unable to deny that he was excited at the new breakthrough—the man that he'd worked himself into some sort of state of adoration for wasn't just another pathetic specimen after all. He was Gabriel, he was the Gabriel, and that only added to the sense of power—power, power, power—that Sam felt for having been such a focus of his attention for such a long time.

Gabriel was his hero, and he didn't want to admit it, but couldn't quite craft a decent denial, either. He respected the angel, respected his power and the effortless way in which he balanced it, never seeming to slip up like Sam himself so often did. He was wise, even if it didn't show on the surface—wise and strong. (Also absurdly attractive, with his teasing expressions and overtly sexy attitude, but Sam tried not dwell on that part.)

And his death, if not particularly devastating, was disconcerting—absurdly, unreasonably so.

Like the death of Captain America or something, he'd tried to explain to Dean, the first and last time he'd ever put voice to the way he viewed the deceased archangel. You know what that's like, you've got to. Losing someone you admire.

That old coward ain't no Captain America, Sammy, was the scoffed response, served with a snort of disgust and a sharp glare. He's a villain, he's Loki—literally. Nothing to admire about a douchebag.

But Gabriel wasn't a douchebag, wasn't a coward, and even if Dean was a brick wall when it came to attempted explanations, Sam nevertheless wouldn't allow himself to see the archangel in any other light. Their last moments together flashed before his eyes constantly—telling them to save Kali, standing calmly before Lucifer himself, armed with only his blade and completely prepared to go down. A soldier. And he had gone down, went down fighting, and that knowledge was so perfectly bittersweet that it managed to affect Sam's heart, to twist it in a way that was soothing and tormenting all at once. As much as he wouldn't have wanted his unwilling idol to die any other way, it was hard to realize that he'd never see him again (though that was always a possibility, really, after each of Gabriel's departures). He really wouldn'tthis time, because the archangel was dead.

Truly, permanently, irrevocably dead.

For a while, he hadn't let himself become convinced of that fact. The ever-elusive Trickster had faked his demise before, after all. There was the incident of their very first encounter, when Dean had stabbed him through the chest—the third, when Sam did the honors. (And it was damn hard to, harder than he expected, and suspending the crashing wave of guilt that hung above him afterwards was a heroic effort.)

But it crept up on him, gradually, acidly.

He's dead, Sam. He's really dead this time.

It took a couple more weeks, once he'd 'come to terms' with the fact, to recover from it. And even after that period of time, there was no denying that there was still an achingly sweet sort of twist in his chest every time he heard the name Gabriel, or even so much as heard reference to an 'archangel'—earlier on, it had taken nothing but the mention of wings to prompt the twinge in his chest, but he'd managed to progress a bit farther from that.

In any case, the period of obsessing was over.

And now, as Sam sits back on a hotel bed in the Dean-free room with his laptop warming his legs and a glass of water on the side table, Gabriel is the last thing on his mind. He's researching zombies, trying to brush up on his knowledge of them before they tackle the nearby town with an apparent infestation, to be as prepared as possible. That isn't happening until tomorrow, though, and Dean's decided to take advantage of the empty-scheduled night to head out to the nearest bar, promising that he 'won't be back till after one, and probably not alone.' Sam doesn't care, really. He's used to this kind of crap, and it'll be nice to have a bit of time to himself.

Little does he know that it won't be by himself at all.

There's no knock on the door, of course. That would be too hesitant, too courteous. Instead, it's pushed open in a single swift motion, banging slightly against the wall. Sam jumps, computer slipping off his lap, and leans forward instinctively, his arm shooting out for a weapon that's nowhere near his reach, and it's around this point that his eyes process just who's framed in the doorway.

God, it's him.

It is him, him from head to toe—sleek, dirty blonde hair, short figure and greenish-gray jacket, sharp hazel eyes and half-smirking face. Juststanding there, looking for all the world as though there's nothing abnormal about his position whatsoever, like he simply walked in after taking a trip to the gas station to grab a bottle of Coke.

Sam doesn't let himself believe what he's saying, not at first—he stands up swiftly, his heart seeming to pound far too audibly in his ears as his vision sways dangerously. There's no way. No way. "Who are you?" he demands, knowing that his voice is coming out as a shout and not caring, because no one should dare to be able to do this, to trick him and tempt him with the possibility that he's back when it's impossible, when he's finally convinced himself otherwise. His mind recognizes vaguely that the nearest gun is in his coat hanging on the back of the door, and he hates himself for being such an idiot, for leaving himself unprepared.

"Hey, don't give me that," and it's his damn voice, a completely characteristic, sarcastically offended tilt of his head as the edges of his mouth turns down, his eyebrows draw together. "Sure, it's been a while, but I hope you haven't completely forgotten me yet. Bit of a famous guy, you know… archangel…" He gestures to his own face, his eyes running over Sam as if searching for any kind of recognition.

And the hunter is slumping down, sitting hard on the bed and lifting a hand to his forehead, pressing against it and trying to assuage the sudden, furious headache that's pounding against it. He knows he's stupid for letting his defenses down so easily, but at the same time, he knows that there's no threat here, of course there isn't. "It's you… Jesus, it's really you… I was so sure… how…?"

"Miss me?" Gabriel jokes. Sam hears the door shut, and simply shakes his head, giving a small, rough laugh. The angel clearly has no idea justhow much he missed him, just how much it had taken over his life for multiple weeks, before he finally let himself let go… only for this…

"How the hell…" Pulling his hand away from his head, Sam curls his fingers around the edges of the bedspread, daring to look up. It's hard to stare directly at Gabriel, as though focusing on him for too long will cause him to vanish like a smoky mirage. "You were dead… you weredefinitely dead…"

"Definitely dead? Wow, Sam, no offense or anything, but I had you targeted as the smarter of your little hunter duo up till now… I should hope you know by now that I'm never definitely dead, 'specially not when you believing so works to my advantage."

The words creep meaninglessly through Sam's mind—all he can really focus on is the voice, the utterly un-angelic, normal, average American voice, and how fucking much he missed it all this time. Still, he manages to process enough of their meaning to realize that Gabriel's calling him stupid—and he doesn't care, not really, because it doesn't matter, all that matters is that he's back (God, he's back—how the hell did he manage to get back?), and everything else can be resolved later on.

"How did you do it?" he whispers, searching the angel's eyes wonderingly as though answers are hidden there. And he's surprised by the warmth that radiates from them—he had grown used to a sort of cold, distant look from Gabriel. Not bracingly so, but just simmering under the surface, hidden under his buoyant exterior, ready to repel anyone who dared try and approach his genuine core.

He looks more open now, though, and that change is reflected in the unusually friendly gesture of him loping over to the bed, sitting down next to the hunter. Sam's eyes flicker back to the floor again as the springs of the mattress creak under him, his hands balling into anxious fists and his breath catching. He's nervous, for some reason, to have Gabriel this close to him, and he tries not to think about why that might be, suffices instead to repeat his words. "How…? I was so sure…"

"But I think we've already decided that you're fooled pretty damn easily, Sammy Boy." (Sam tries to ignore the fact that feels a prickling flush across his cheeks upon hearing his childish nickname in that voice.) "Same way as always. Duplicates. Had to make it a little fancier for my…lovely brother's benefit, of course—namely, wings burned onto the ground—but there was no way I'd risk my neck like that. Not for you. Certainly not for Kali or Dean."

Certainly not for Kali or Dean. Almost as if doing so for them would be even more unlikely, like Sam was singled out… but he can't afford to think like that, he can't. So he latches onto another subject, stammering uselessly. "Why are you coming back…? If you're trying to trick everyone, if you're trying to make them all think you're dead… why come back to tell me?"

"Because—" Gabriel begins, then cuts off rather suddenly, a frown tugging at his features. He looks away for a moment, down at his own lap, and it's that—the first moment of Sam seeing him but him not seeing Sam, and the way that he's turning his back, in a metaphorical sort of sense, trusting the man who tried to kill him multiple times before—

Trusting him…

"Because I wanted someone to know?" he finally offers, sounding almost questioning, irritation rough in his voice, shoving aside the usual slick tone. "Because I'm fucking sick of having to hide from everybody that I care about?"

"Like you care about me," Sam mutters, turning his stare back towards the doorway and leaning backwards, taking a deep breath. He feels odd—for once, he and Gabriel aren't trying to kill each other, and aren't trying to save each other, either. Just sitting, sitting side by side on a random hotel bed, neither facing the other, exchanging quiet, terse words.

"What if I said that I did?"

"Then I wouldn't believe you… obviously. No offense or anything, but… it's a bit obvious at this point that you really don't give a crap either way why I so much as live or die."

The response is a quickly sucked-in breath, sharp and swift. Then there's a warm hand on Sam's shoulder, chills spiraling away from the point of impact as he's roughly turned around, and he finds himself staring into the archangel's eyes, which are suddenly very close, very bright—a delicate shade of golden hazel, green undertones fierce against the amber brown. "You don't know a thing about my intentions or my loyalties, Sam. I could care about your fate… I could care a lot."

"But why would you?" he argues, determined not to let himself believe otherwise.

Gabriel's mouth opens in apparent incredulity, and he slowly shakes his head from side to side, rolling his eyes slightly. "Damn, you are slow.Let's take this nice and easy, kiddo, not be too hard on your brain—why does one person normally care about another one?"

Sam's stomach is rocking back and forth like a sea-tossed ship at this point, and he can barely get his next words out. "Well, for starters, they usually… know each other."

"I think we can say pretty safely that we know each other at this point. I saved your ass from Lucifer, didn't I? I resurrected your brother—"

"You're the one who killed him!"

"Killed him to protect you!" The angel's eyes are burning now, his voice escalating until he's practically shouting. "To make things easier for you… and then brought him back, just because I couldn't stand to see you so changed… so cold… I was trying to help you!"

"You don't have any reason to want to help me."

Gabriel whistles lowly and rolls his eyes again, the action more exaggerated this time around. "Your mind just wanders in circles, doesn't it?" He lifts a finger and twirls it to emphasize the words, then brings it forward, poking Sam squarely in the forehead. "So stupid…" Then he rubs his thumb over the point of impact, slowly moving his hand to the side of Sam's face and stroking his hair in a contemplative sort of way.

Sam's breathless at this point, both confused and oddly happy with the way things seem to be turning out. He swallows roughly, dryly, trying to think of words but unable to come up with any, let alone put voice to them. It's still a struggle to realize that Gabriel's alive at all, not to mention that he's here, sitting next to Sam, that's he's touching him and saying he cares about him—out of nowhere, the hunter blinks, hard, trying to clear his eyes as if he's experiencing some sort of hallucination. But the archangel's image doesn't waver in the slightest—in fact, he lets out a small, short laugh, and Sam has to clench his teeth together to prevent himself from—God, he doesn't even know what he's holding back from at this point, but his stomach knows, his heart knows, and neither are particularly keen on letting him forget it.

"I have plenty reason to want to help you," Gabriel offers in summary, tilting his head and smirking slightly. He's calmed down again, his shoulders and face relaxed. "From the very beginning, I had you picked out, y'know. You were fun. More fun than your brother—nah, he's too similar to me… you, you're different, you're geeky and awkward and yet so strong at the same time… adorable, and almost impressive"

"A-are you going to…" Somehow, their foreheads are centimeters away from brushing against one another, and Sam barely has to whisper the words for Gabriel to hear them, so he barely bothers to put any voice into them at all, instead keeping it at the bare ghost of a noise. His gaze is flickering obsessively between the archangel's curving lips and his steely eyes, and his heart feels like its bruising his ribcage with the vicious ferocity of its pounding.

The mouth twists, the eyes widen. "D'you want me to?"

"I… I'm not… sure…" His breath catches in his throat, and he shakes his head stupidly, pulling himself away, against the headboard. Stupid, Sam; you're so damn stupid sometimes. Gabriel doesn't seem discouraged, though—instead, he tips his head in curiosity as Sam inhales steadily a few times, reaching up to flick a couple loose strands of dark hair out of his eyes. The angel's stare rakes him up and down for several long moments, as though sizing him up, then Gabriel inches closer to him, sliding along the side of the bed and not looking shy in the least.

"You may not be sure," he murmurs by the time they're close enough for his apparent taste again, and Sam tries to scoot away, but there's nowhere to go, just farther up against the headboard. "But I'm pretty sure I am."

Sam's fully aware of what's about to happen, but that doesn't take away from the shock that radiates through his whole body as the archangel pulls his small figure fully onto the bed, winding himself up next to the other man. He holds his body an inch or so away from Sam's, hovering warmly, and reaches out, tucking two of his fingers under the hunter's chin and tilting it upwards so that their stares can meet one another more easily. Sam is gripping the sheets tightly, holding his breath and trying not to focus on the proximity of the bright-eyed angel's face. Their noses are touching now, a light, almost tickling gesture, and it only lasts for a second before Gabriel finally closes the distance between them, ducking in and delivering Sam a single, long, luxurious kiss.

He expected it to feel anxious, or at the very least awkward, but it's not—it's perfect, warm and sweet, and it seems to light his stomach on fire with fevered, fluttery excitement. His fingers work their way even farther into the wound-up sheets, and he whimpers softly against the angel's lips, a noise that prompts a low, purring chuckle in the other. A hand slinks around his neck, fingers curving against the back of his head, stroking his hair, and he sighs, relaxing completely into the backing of pillows and savoring Gabriel's weight pressing down on him, holding him in place. The minutes tick by, one after another, and with every passing second Sam becomes more and more sure that this is theright thing to do, that he wants this more than anything else right now. Pure, unadulterated happiness is breaking over him in waves—he's where he wants to be, and this is who he wants to be with, somehow Gabriel's alive and he came back, he came back for Sam.

They don't so much break apart as gently detach from one another, Gabriel pulling himself back into a sitting position and Sam turning away, keeping his eyes closed as he inhales several long, sweet breaths of the archangel's scent—deep and dark, like the wild side of a forest at midnight, but also sugary around the edges, milk chocolate and cherry lollipops, a hint of his own personality to shine through the consuming cloak of his holy role.

"How long do you have to hide?" Sam finally asks, his voice surprisingly weak. He looks up, sees that Gabriel has turned to sit once more on the edge of the bed, his head low.

"No idea. Long time, probably… could be years."

Sam can detect the bitterness in the angel's voice, and his stomach rolls as he uses an elbow to prop himself up again, barely daring to speak the next words. "…How many years?"

"Ages, maybe. They won't fall for Loki again, and it's a bit late for new gods to be cropping up… I can't associate with anyone. You get that? That means you can't tell anyone. Not Dean. Not even my brother…"

Castiel, Sam realizes, and a soft ache jars his chest at the thought—Gabriel and Cas are brothers, and the latter thinks that the former is dead right now. How hard must that be, to stay away, to stop oneself from telling the truth and to watch one's own sibling suffer…

He told me, though. He came to tell me… more than one thing.

"I won't," he promises, and it hurts his throat for some reason, to try and force words out. It's aching, and he forces himself to take a shaky breath. Don't leave again. "Will you… come see me, sometimes? I know you have to hide, but—please, will you visit me? I want to know… I want to know that you aren't going to go and get yourself killed for real."

"I don't know if I'll be able to," Gabriel replies dully, and his voice is so lifeless, devoid from any of the playful lilting or degrading nicknames that it's usually laced with. "I can try. I want to try. This might be it, though."

"Wait…" Sam's heart lurches, and he scrambles into a full sitting position, staring in wide-eyed confusion. "What do you mean, this might be it?Are you—?"

"Coming here was enough for a risk. Chances are that I won't be able to do it again… I came here to say goodbye, Sam."

"No," he gets out, numbly, shaking his head and even laughing a little at the absurdity of it all. "No, I'm not—you can't do that, that's not fair. You can't come—you can't just come and kiss me…" The words taste sharp and exciting in his mouth, a contrast to the sour pull of looming tears. "…And then just saunter off. You… can't."

"It's pretty damn obvious that I can, Sammy," Gabriel growls. "I can and I will, and you're just going to have to deal with it." He looks up, though, meets Sam's pale green-gray eyes with his fierce amber-gold ones, and there's an ages-old sadness in his face, turning his usually uplifted features into a mask of regret. "I wish I didn't have to, alright? It's not very often that I find a human who… who's actually… interesting."

Sam's never heard Gabriel stammer, and it renders him so exposed, so vulnerable that he has to resist reaching forward and pulling the angel down into another kiss. Please, don't leave me.

"I'm going to miss you," he mumbles instead, swallowing against the blockage in his throat. It's true—he doesn't want to lose Gabriel, not again. Doesn't want to forget the gleam of his eyes or the laughing tenor of his voice, doesn't want to know that he'll never appear again, never turn up unexpectedly on a case, bringing a jolt to Sam's heart with a handful of candy wrappers left at the crime scene. "I'm going to miss you… a lot."

"I know…" Gabriel leans forward, takes ahold of Sam's shoulders and pulls him close, burying his face in the hunter's chest. Sam's entire circulatory system seems to freeze as the angel's breath moves along his collarbone, and he automatically reaches out to encircle the smaller man in his own arms, holding him as closely as he can and holding his lungs still as fingers claw into his shirt, clinging to him with a sort of childish desperation. "I'm gonna miss you, too, kid. You never know, though…" He pulls back briefly, and his mouth—the mouth that Sam kissed—twitches up in a halfhearted smirk. "I might find a way to get back to you at some point."

"You'd better," Sam whispers.

"I'll do my best." His chin tilts up and he takes ahold of Sam's collar one more time, pulling him down and kissing him gently on the lips, a light, ghosting gesture that lasts for only a brief yet eternal second, melting away into nothing but a tingling all down Sam's spine and a shuddering flap of distant wings echoing through the air.

Suddenly, Sam's arms are empty, and that's when the tears start to come, thin and stinging paths down his cheeks and chin, so that he has to lift up his shaking hands, press them against his eyes to hold back the incessant flow. He doesn't let himself sob or even so much as whimper—he never cried for Gabriel's death in the first place; it would be utterly stupid for him to do so now. But he already is, and he can't help himself, can't suppress the horrid ache in his chest.

There's a sudden slam, and his head flies upwards, eyes springing wide open and finding the door as quickly as possible—is he back? Did he change his mind?—but it takes him less than a second to see that there are two figures there, pushed up rather close to one another, and then the light flickers off and he hears the groans and knows who it is.

"Do you mind?" he asks irritably, managing to disguise the tears in his voice. His eyes adjust enough to see the annoyance of Dean's expression as he briefly looks up from the short brunette woman who's wound around him, her hot-pink lips bubbling with lightheaded laughter which cuts off when she glances Sam.

"Who's this?" she challenges, her pixie-like features morphing into a pout as she tilts her head against Dean's chest.

"My brother," is the muttered response, followed by: "Sam—would you just…?"

A protest flits across Sam's mind, but he doesn't voice it, just slips wordlessly off the bed and out the door, shoving past the girl, who lets out an indignant squeak. Once in the hall, he hesitates for a moment, the door closing behind him but not quite blocking the voices from inside.

"What's his problem?" the girl squawks, her voice obnoxiously high and whiny.

"Nothin' you need to worry about, sweetheart. He's just a crabby bitch. Sometimes I think that he's still going through puberty."

She giggles, a noise grating and high and almost immediately cut off by a thud that Sam can identify as them both falling onto the bed. He shakes his head at nothing and starts off down the hallway, his hands tucked tight into his pockets and his gaze directed towards the floor.

Just a crabby bitch.

Just a crabby, self-centered, lazy, whiny, powerless, weak, disloyal bitch.

For just a few brief minutes, there had been someone who made him feel like more than that.

But now even he's gone, and Sam's alone again.

Alone and useless.