Disclaimer: I haven't written anything for Supernatural until now and I'm totally disregarding anything after season five ended, so bear with me. I also am not an expert in mental illness, so please forgive me if I get some details wrong. I'm not making any money off of this and Supernatural and it's characters belong to its respective owners.

—O —O —O

Gabriel had cracked. It was subtle, but once he began to stick around for longer than a few minutes at a time, it became more and more obvious. While Dean continues on oblivious, Castiel tilts his head at him like the disgruntled bird he always seems to be imitating, as if he recognizes it on some angelic level, but can't quite figure it out. The inner workings of archangels are probably supposed to be unfathomable to lesser angels, but it's clear Castiel is concerned anyway. Gabriel just shrugs him off and laughs, saying Castiel is too serious for his own good and for Father's sake, could he lighten up already?

Sam notices it in the sometimes golden glint his eyes get, flashing with cruelty and dark humour. It is almost as if Gabriel's already fickle mood swings have gone into over-drive, going from weirdly sweet and annoying, if crude, to something that makes Sam's hands itch for a weapon. He smells different, too, and Sam wonders whether that's just hunter's instinct that he notices or if it's something he'd rather not think about. One Gabriel, the one that Sam likes best, smells like spun sugar and melted chocolate with an undercurrent of mint. The other smells like lightning and ritual sacrifice. It seemed like a storm is somehow lingering under the surface of his vessel, coiled tight next to the archangel's Grace.

It happens when they're taking out a nest of vampires in Oklahoma. The hunt isn't exactly difficult compared to taking on Heaven and Hell during the Apocalypse That Didn't Actually Happen. The only remarkable thing about it is that Gabriel actually decides to tag along. One of the vampires takes a long look at Gabriel and gives him a nod of respect right before he's about to die. "Trickster," he says and Gabriel fucking grins as he destroys the thing, eyes flashing a brilliant gold. The glint is still there when they go back to the hotel room. Gabriel whisks himself and Sam away via Angel Air while Dean prefers to drive his baby back, murmurs sweet nothings into the steering wheel when he thinks no one is looking.

"Are you okay?" Sam asks after a few minutes of silence. He had been sitting at the desk, staring at his laptop and wondering how he hadn't put the whole thing together long before this. And he was supposed to be the smart one. Gabriel is lounging on Dean's bed, managing to look both relaxed and wound up enough to snap. His eyes narrow and Sam fights the urge to just back off and leave him be. There's a candy bar in Gabriel's hand, one of those fun sized Twix bars and he just pops it into his mouth and chews slowly. He closes his eyes to relish it and they are still hard and golden when he returns his gaze to Sam. "Gabr-"

"Don't call me that," says the archangel that may not be entirely an archangel anymore. "Gabriel's not home right now. Don't worry, sport. I'm just as fun. You remember all those good times we had?"

"I thought turning Trickster was just your-I mean-Gabriel's version of witness protection. How are you and he different?"

"Oh, I've always been around. It wasn't until Lucy killed him that he finally let me out."

"So, you're what? Possession? Trickster vessel? Can angels do that?"

"Naw," he's suddenly chewing a piece of gum that Sam never saw him put into his mouth. He pops a bubble before he continues. "It's a bit simpler than that. Turns out the minds of angels work about the same as the minds of humans, minus the phenomenal cosmic genius, of course. Put that Psych 101 to good use, there's a good boy."

"There's two of you. Dissociative Identities? You're an alternate personality?"

"In the flesh," the Trickster laughs and winks, "Get it? In the flesh? I crack myself up."

"Yeah, ha ha, you're a regular riot." It takes a minute before Sam starts to regret riling up the strange being in front of him, but he's just so used to banter like this with Gabriel that he didn't think twice about saying it.

The Trickster just laughs. "Oh, Samwise, I've always liked you best."

Somehow this isn't news to Sam, so he just asks, "The Trickster is a Lord of the Rings fan?"

"Who isn't? Tolkien was a genius. And the Peter Jackson films? Brilliant."

"Huh. Who'd have thought?" A pause. "So, do you have a name? Or are you just 'Trickster?'"

"Does it matter?" he makes a show of stretching, like he's already bored of this conversation.

"Well, it'd be nice to know what to call you, is all. Dean's going to be back soon. Castiel probably won't be long behind him. Are you going to be sticking around?"

"Nope," he pops his gum on the 'p,' "Places to see, people to do. You know how it goes."

With a last snap of his gum and his fingers, he leaves Sam alone with his laptop.

—O —O —O

It's Gabriel the next time the archangel pops into his room. They're at Bobby's doing some research on some weird runes they keeps seeing on different, seemingly unrelated hunts. So far, nothing has come up. Sam finally drags himself up the stairs and collapses into the slightly dusty pillow. He can't bring himself to care about the dust, he's so tired.. He'd begun research hours ago and when he'd looked up, even Dean had gone to bed. Castiel had looked up from the book he'd been flipping through and in his gruff, but well-meaning way had told Sam he should get to bed. Sam hadn't argued.

"Hey, kiddo," he says. His voice is uncharacteristically soft, with hints of the same pain Sam heard when they had him trapped within the circle of holy fire and he'd admitted his true identity.

Sam rolls over with a groan, wincing at the cracks and pops his body makes as he does so. "Hey. It's good to see you and not, well, you know."

Gabriel shifts uncomfortably. "Yeah, can we not talk about it?"

"Uh, sure. You here to chill or is this divine intervention for our case?"

"Just to hang. Do you mind?"

That last question gets Sam's attention. Gabriel is sitting on the desk across the room, and he is paying much more attention to his boots than is really called for. Sam flails an arm a little bit to get his attention, "Hey, Gabriel."

The archangel's eyes flash again, but there's none of that predatory stiffness that comes with the Trickster. Just a quickly smothered glimpse of vulnerability and resignation. "No, it's okay. You were sleeping. I'll go."

"Gabriel!" Sam is up in an instant and grabbing at the arm that is raised to snap. "Stop. Wait."

Gabriel lowers his arm, but he still isn't looking directly at Sam.

"What's going on with you? I mean, aside from the obvious alternate personality thing. Where's the candy and the snark?"

"It's nothing. I'm just not feeling it. Leave it, Sam."

"No, I'm not going to leave it. This is serious. And I know that you don't do serious very well, but this isn't you and it's kinda freaking me out. I mean, it is you, but this whole asking if I mind and soul gazing with your shoes business is not. Can you please talk to me?"

There's a moment when he thinks Gabriel is about to spill, but he clams up, instead. "I thought—I don't actually know what I thought. Something told me to come to you," he laughs, but it's not a good laugh. "It was probably him. The other me. I don't know what he thought you could do. I'm an archangel, for fuck's sake, it's not like I can't take care of myself."

Sam hadn't noticed that he still had a hold on Gabriel's arm until he realises that it is shaking under his grip. What could be so bad that it could make the Messenger of God tremble? "Okay, first off. Is there something after you? The panic room should keep out most of everything and I'm sure Bobby..."

The taller man trails off when Gabriel shakes his head, looking a little sad. The mask, even as it threatens to crumble at any moment, quickly covers the emotion, however. "Nothing like that."

"Good. Come here, then." Sam uses his grip on Gabriel's arm to pull him along. The archangel is normally unmovable, a steel wall even in his short vessel, but he allows himself to be manhandled. Sam pushes him to sit on the bed and then folds himself down beside him. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Gabriel blinks. "What?"

It's not often that Sam leaves Gabriel speechless and while it might have been useful during one of the man's snarkfests, it's not all that helpful here. "If it's not an outer demon, then it's an inner one. Do you want to talk about it?"

The look on Gabriel's face is confusion and disbelief and yeah, it's completely possible that Sam is the first being to ever ask him something like this. The hunter clamps down on the irrational anger he feels at that—it's not like archangels are generally in need of therapy. Sam thinks, idly, that maybe the apocalypse could have been averted if Someone had paid an excessive amount of money to send Satan to the shrink along with Michael and some of his other dick brothers three times a week until they had sorted through their feelings toward one anouther.

This particular archangel looks like he could break under the weight of even Sam's words, so he treads as lightly as he can. The Trickster is also still there, somewhere, and it's possible that he's keeping watch. Sam doesn't know what made the Trickster send Gabriel to him, if that's indeed what happened, but he feels like he's not the sort of being you want to disappoint—no matter what his expectations are. So Sam relents a little. "You don't have to say anything if you don't want to. Just know that, y'know, I'm here. If you need me. You can just hang here, if not. We can-"

There is suddenly a lap full of archangel and Sam's too startled to do anything but instinctively put his arms around him to steady him. It's not as if the archangel will unbalance, and Sam feels silly for all of three seconds before he completely registers that Gabriel is clinging to him. His face is buried in the spot between Sam's neck and his shoulder, his hair falling out of place to cover what's exposed. There aren't any tears—Gabriel is too proud for that—but he doesn't pull away for a long time. Sam does what he used to do for Jess and rubs soothing circles along Gabriel's back. Sam can practically feel his vessel's heart beating hard and fast, but Sam doesn't call him out on it. The trembling begins to subside and Sam loosens his hold when Gabriel lets go. His expression is a little sheepish, but he attempts a smile when he says, "Sorry. Thanks. Don't know what came over me."

Sam smiles and studies the face before him. It doesn't look like the face of an archangel. It's looks like the face of a man run ragged, with the weight of the universe about to close in on him. "No problem. I know angels don't sleep and all, but it looks like you could use a good rest. You can take the bed, if you want. Bobby won't mind if I crash on his couch."

Gabriel looks reproachful. "I'm not going to take your bed, Sam. Not when I don't even need to sleep. We can share, right? I promise to keep my hands, feet, and all other objects to myself."

Sam's afraid that the change in tone signals the Trickster's return, but when he looks, Gabriel's eyes are still that stunning green, shining with humour. This is just Gabriel being Gabriel. "Sure, I guess."

"Awesome," Gabriel says, and he snaps his fingers.

He and Sam are no longer sitting on Bobby's old, dusty bed—the one where the springs dig into your back if you don't have the flexibility of a contortionist to avoid them all. Instead, the bed fills up most of the free space in the room and the comforter is sinfully soft. Sam runs his hand over it a few times before he rolls his eyes and climbs under the covers. It's delightful. He's surprised, though, when Gabriel prefers to lay on top of the blankets, his arms folded behind his head as he stares at the popcorn ceiling. He turns his face towards Sam, who is turned on his side facing the archangel. "Good night, Sam."

Sam grins and falls asleep almost as soon as he closes his eyes. When he wakes up the next morning, Gabriel has already left.

—O —O —O

Dean is going too far. He and Gabriel have always rubbed each other the wrong way, so it isn't new seeing them argue with each other. They can nit-pick about the smallest issues until even Castiel looks like he is readying himself to jump between them and pull them apart like school-boys. They both give as good as they get, but it hasn't gotten too out of hand yet, so Sam hasn't done anything more than grimace and try to stay out of it. He does not want to have both Gabriel and Dean tag-teaming him. Not again, anyway.

Sam can't even remember how this argument started, only that it had quickly dissolved from pissing match to all out war. Dean had already been in a tizzy over the case since they had come upon dead lead after dead lead, so anything any of them did probably would have launched an all out bitch-fit. Gabriel, unfortunately, does not back down from such threats and, in general, likes to encourage them. Sam has never fully understood this idea of 'fun.'

Dean finally goes too far, mentioning something about God off-hand that even Sam thinks is in bad taste. Castiel, lurking in a corner of the motel room, flinches and his eyes narrow, but he doesn't move otherwise. Gabriel, on the other hand, is nearly thunderous with rage. The smell of ozone is getting thicker and Sam thinks it's probably not a good idea to piss off a being that can change weather patterns with the force of his emotions.

"You do not get to talk about my Father, Dean Winchester." Gabriel's whole body is taught with tension and it's beginning to make Sam feel nervous. He's waiting for that flash of gold that will signal the Trickster's appearance and the ensuing chaos that will unfold with his presence. At the same time, he's wondering what he can do to prevent the Trickster showing up.

"Yeah, well, it's not like he's around to do anything, is he? Just up and left you. Didn't even leave a note. Did you take a page out of Daddy's book when you bailed on Heaven? Ran away and left all the little angels like Cas to fend for themselves against dicks like Michael and Raphael?"

It's like watching something implode, like a building that once stood proud and tall collapsing in on itself all at once. Gabriel looks like Dean's physically gone and punched him despite that doing so would literally break Dean's fist. Dean is about to go in for the metaphorical kill when Sam notices Castiel stiffen. His gaze is on Gabriel, heavy with concern as well as suspicion. Sam turns back to the archangel to see that the building that had once imploded has been replaced with a fortified tower. Sam knows that they're no longer dealing with Gabriel and that shit has just gotten very serious.

"Cas, can you go take Dean somewhere and explain to him everything that was wrong with what he just said?" Sam makes it sound a lot less like a request and more of a command. Castiel tilts his head at him in a way that says that he'll try to do as Sam says but he's also expecting an explanation once the dust settles. Sam nods and watches Castiel nearly drag Dean out of the motel by his forearm.

The Trickster is leaning very casually against a wall, lollipop stick hanging out of his mouth, when Sam turns his attention back to him. He grins at Sam in a way that has the hunter wishing he'd gone with Cas and Dean. It feels a lot like being left in a room with a hungry tiger. The shorter man starts a slow clap. "Good job, Sammy. I mean, not exactly what I had in mind when I told him you were safe, but hey, have a gold star for effort."

Sam doesn't get a chance to ask what he means about "safe" because the Trickster is pinning him to the wall that was previously across the room and ow, that had really hurt. "You are supposed to protect him. That includes protecting him from your dumbass brother and Gabriel's clueless baby bro. Don't make this mistake again. Or I won't be letting Gabriel out to play any time soon."

"You can't do that!"

"Oh, I can. And I will. Gabriel trusts me to take care of him. If I think it's in his best interest, I will do whatever it takes to keep him from harm. With his life-span, he won't even notice a few decades going by. Just long enough for you knuckle-heads to no longer be a problem. He'd be angry, but whatever."

"What do you mean? He's an archangel, how are we a problem?"

The Trickster rolls golden eyes at him, "Honey-bunches, you're about as clueless as Castiel. If you have to ask, you'll never know."

He does let off of Sam, walking back toward the center of the room and brushing imaginary dust from his arms. Sam can see the anger that even those mundane, unnecessary motions hold back. "There isn't anything else after him, though, right? We don't have to worry about anything lurking in the dark that we don't already expect to be there?"

"Naw, we're good." He points at Sam. "Just keep your brother on a leash. And no blabbing to Castie-bee. It's none of his business. We clear?"

Sam rubs at his shoulder, but he makes sure to keep the Trickster's gaze as he says, "Yeah. Crystal. Gabriel will be back?"

"I'll see if I can coax him out." He raises an arm to snap. "And Sam? We won't be having this conversation again."

In the space between one blink and the next, the Trickster is gone.

Sam doesn't see Gabriel, or the Trickster, for two weeks.

—O —O —O

Gabriel takes to popping in when Dean isn't around. If he appears while Dean is still in the motel room, the archangel gives them a lopsided smile and makes a joke about having dialled the wrong number or how he just wanted to make sure they were still breathing or had they seen Castiel recently because he really wanted to take him to this or that place to do whatever angels hanging around on earth do when they fly off. Sam thinks the last excuse is a complete lie because he's pretty sure that the archangel has been avoiding his own brother as avidly as he's been avoiding Sam's.

Dean is beginning to grudgingly feel bad about the whole thing after Sam pointed it out. Castiel looks disappointed and sad, but those are expressions that Sam thinks might be default on the angel's face, so he's unsure. This leads to some serious non-verbal exchanges between Dean and his angel, which leads to them being out of the motel more often. Sam enjoys the time to himself when Gabriel doesn't end up showing up and Dean and Castiel get to spend quality time together, so it ends up being a win for everyone. Sam also hasn't seen the Trickster in a long time and while he doesn't forget about the alternate Gabriel, he wants to take it as a sign that things are getting better.

"Cas and I are going to check out a lead. You okay here, Sam?" Dean calls, pulling on socks and boots.

Sam pokes his head out of the bathroom, a toothbrush halfway to his mouth. "Uh, yeah. Should be. Bring back lunch?"

"Yup. Call me if you find anything," he pauses, uncomfortable with what he's going to say next, "If Gabe shows up, can you tell him that, that I shouldn't have said what I did? That he can come around more often. If, y'know, he wants."

Sam is surprised, but he guesses Dean's conscience and maybe Cas have finally gotten to him enough to get him to put aside his pride. "Sure, no problem."

Gabriel is suddenly in the room just as the door swings shut, appearing with a gentle rustle of feathers, that now Sam is looking for it, he can just barely make out. "That was unexpected."

Sam rolls his eyes and goes back to brushing his teeth. Gabriel follows him into the bathroom, of course, sitting on the edge of the sink as Sam finishes getting ready. He doesn't say anything, just follows Sam with his eyes and kicks his legs back and forth like a kid. "You gonna take him up on it?"

Gabriel makes a non-committal gesture. "Maybe. Got anything exciting on the agenda for today?"

"Just more research, I guess. We really have no idea where to even begin looking for this case. Even Bobby is stumped. There doesn't seem to be anything that the hunts have in common except for the runes."

"Can I see?"

Sam tosses the notebook where he'd copied the symbols in Gabriel's general direction. He catches it, of course, and busies himself with peering at them.

"Supernatural gang signs," he says, like he's stating something as simple as the sum of two and two being four. There is none of the mocking tone he's so used to from the archangel, as if he expects Sam to also have access to the same knowledge of the earth—past, present, and future—that he does. It's getting to be really unnerving the way Gabriel seems to have mellowed out since he had come to Sam looking for refuge that one night.

Sam doesn't comment on it, though. He has a feeling that Gabriel will talk about it if and when he wants to, so instead he replies, "Supernatural gangs? You have to be kidding me. In fact, I refuse to believe that you're being serious."

Gabriel smirks and Sam hates how it never seems to quite reach those usually expressive eyes of his anymore. "I'm wounded, kid. How do you think things like covens and families of vampires started? There is safety in numbers and all that."

"So why are we only seeing these symbols now? Do they mean anything? They don't look like any language we've come across before."

"Think of it like a dog pissing all over the next door neighbour's yard. They're basically all putting up huge blinking signs saying 'This is our territory, get your own.' Really, Sam. When I said 'gang signs,' what did you think I meant?"

"Okay, wow. Who'd have thought? I should call Dean."

"Yeah, sure, you do that."

Gabriel makes a show of lounging on Sam's bed as Sam digs for his phone and hits the speed dial for Dean. He gives Dean and Castiel the information, while watching Gabriel deliberately mess up his bedding out of the corner of his eye. He wants to tell the archangel to knock it off, but he knows he's only looking to get a rise out of Sam, so he grits his teeth and tries to focus on Dean's rough voice and the gravelly murmur of Castiel in the background. He gives a quick goodbye and when he turns back to Gabriel, the bed is immaculate and Sam is alone in the room. The hunter lets out a frustrated growl and calls, "You could at least say 'goodbye!'"

Dean and Castiel return not long after that with two boxes of pizza. Dean tries unsuccessfully to get the angel to try a piece of meat lovers, while Sam digs into a slice loaded with vegetables and tries not to think about how much he misses having Gabriel around.

—O —O —O

It's been a while since Sam has seen the Trickster, so he figures he's due. What he didn't figure was that it would be in the middle of a hunt, with Sam being held down by the throat by an Arachnes with her teeth inches away from his skin. One moment, he's trying to hold her at bay however unsuccessfully so he can not be bitten and killed, best case, or turned into an arachnid sex buddy, worst case, when suddenly her head is no longer on her shoulders and there is a heavily bleeding, headless body on top of him.

The body doesn't remain there long. A hand takes hold of it's shoulder and the body is forcibly removed like it weighs nothing. At first he assumes that Castiel has finally made an appearance and is immediately proved wrong when golden eyes are glaring at him from above. "What are you? Stupid?"

Sam can only blink. He can't help it. His brain still hasn't caught up to the fact that he had been in serious trouble and suddenly is isn't. And it's the Trickste he has to thank for that. "What?"

The Trickster is hauling him up one handed, the other hand still gripping his sword. "Are. You. Stupid?" His teeth are bared and Sam is reminded of wolf—he almost feels like he would rather take his chances with the Arachnes.

Sam brushes dirt from his pants while he gets his breath back. "What do you mean?"

"You were nearly food, Sammy."

"Uh, yeah. It's not like it's a new experience or anything. What's the matter with you?"

The Trickster is suddenly flush against Sam and even though he's much shorter, the archangel seems to be looming over him. Even when Sam attempts to back away, the Trickster is there, eyes fierce and accusing. "How about what's the matter with Gabriel? Huh? He's freaking out right now and I had to put him under to get him to calm down. Do you know how hard that is to do? Really fucking hard."

Sam doesn't know what to say to that, but he's spared having to reply because suddenly the Trickster's hands are on him. It's business-like and sort of like a pat down from a cop, so Sam doesn't try to push him away. It isn't like he could move the archangel, anyway. It's difficult not to notice that his hands are shaking as he moves from Sam's arms to his torso, however. He realizes that the Trickster is looking for injuries. "I'm fine, you know. Just a few bruises."

"Yeah, well, you'll forgive me if I don't believe you, Winchester. You don't have a track record for outstanding communication."

Sam is silent while the Trickster finishes checking him over and finally steps away from him. He walks a few paces away, leaving Sam standing there like an idiot as he watches the Trickster dig his hands in his own hair and pace, kicking agitatedly at stray branches unfortunate enough to be in his way. "Hey," he finally says, "Are you okay?"

The Trickster spins around, golden eyes flashing. "No. I'm not. I told you to protect Gabriel. I wasn't going to have to have this conversation with you again, but apparently you didn't understand me the first time around. After this, however, you aren't going to be so lucky, so listen carefully. Do I need to speak slower for you, because I thought you were brighter than this."

He seems to be waiting for an answer, so Sam shakes his head.

"When I told you to keep him safe, you were included in the equation, numb-nuts. What was going through that empty head of yours that you came out alone? Where's your brother? In fact, where is Gabriel's brother?"

"Dean and I split up to cover more ground. We were just checking out the area. We didn't think we were going to need angelic assistance, so we didn't call Cas."

"Are you kidding me? You walked into a supernatural gangs' territory without knowing what you were getting into? You're lucky to be alive—and not some Arachnes's fuck buddy, at that. You're lucky that Dean's walking in the wrong direction from all the creatures that want to eat you boys."

"I don't know what to tell you. This is what we do. Gabriel knows this. You know this. From experience, I might add. So thanks for the rescue, but there's nothing I can do about being in danger when we're on a case."

"You could not make stupid decisions like going out on your own when you don't know what you've got no idea what you're up against. You could call Castiel—he's not doing anything important enough that he won't come flying if Dean-O gives him a call. You could call me. Or Gabriel. It's not like we are doing anything important enough that we won't come around. We'll mock you endlessly, but you know that we'll come, right?" When Sam doesn't have an answer for that ready, the Trickster is back in his personal space and he takes the hunter by the shoulders and gives him a good shake. And then anouther. "Right, Sammy?"

The last bit sounds really desperate and Sam wants to believe he's imagining it. Archangels—or Tricksters—aren't supposed to sound like that. "I do now. I didn't realize this was so important to you guys. So, I'm sorry."

"You didn't-" the Trickster laughs with disbelief. "You didn't realize?"

"No, I mean-" Sam is interrupted by the Trickster's lips on his. His eyes widen in disbelief, but the Trickster's eyes are also open and never leave his, even as he nibbles at Sam's bottom lip. Sam is too stunned to respond to the Trickster's insistence, or the hands gripping his jacket as if the archangel is trying to refrain from touching him any more than he already is. The fact that kissing with their eyes open is weird, but with the Trickster, it isn't exactly out of character.

"Sorry," the Trickster says as he gives Sam some space. "Gabriel's been wanting to do that for ages, but he's a coward and won't do it unless you approach him first. Just—just think about that, okay? I'd appreciate it if you and Dean went back to the motel for the night, though. I don't think Gabriel can stand anything else happening to you tonight."

Sam runs a hand through his hair. "Sure, no problem. Can you bring me to Dean? If it isn't too much trouble?"

The Trickster smirks, "I can do you one better."

He snaps and suddenly Sam and Dean are out of the woods and in the motel room. Sam knows he's got a lot of explaining to do to Dean and his brother isn't going to like being transported without warning via Angel Air, but at the moment Dean's more concerned about his car. It's in the parking lot where Dean would have parked it if they had driven. Two seconds later, Dean is asking, "What the fuck just happened?"

Sam sighs. It's going to be a long night.

—O —O —O

"Listen," Gabriel says, scaring Sam half to death. He'd been alone in a different motel room in a different town and it hadn't been long since the Trickster saved Sam's hide and kissed him. Sam figured Gabriel would stay away for a while longer, so he hadn't been expecting any sort of visit. He'd been getting ready for bed, taking the opportunity for an early night while Dean takes Castiel off to hustle some pool at a nearby bar.

"Jesus, don't scare me like that!" Sam says, pulling his shirt the rest of the way on. His hair is still wet from his shower.

"You could hurt a guy's ego calling out someone else's name there, Sambo. And Jesus? Couldn't scare a person even while wearing a clown suit."

Sam smiles, happy that Gabriel seems to be more himself. He isn't as withdrawn as the last few times Sam has seen him. "So glad we can agree on the clown thing. What's up?"

Gabriel hesitates, but answers after a few moments. "I wanted to make sure that you're okay. He—the other me—put me to sleep, so I don't know exactly what happened after I found you with the Arachnes. He didn't hurt you or anything, did he?"

"No, he didn't do anything like that. He did tell me a few things, though."

Gabriel's eyes narrow. "Like what?"

"That you freaked out because you were worried about me. That we can call either of you when we're on a case and you'll help us out. Is any of that true?"

Gabriel looks like he's torn between flying off and trying to smooth things over, most likely with some rude joke and a candy bar. He does pull out a candy bar, and Sam gives him the time to open it and take a bite. His eyes are closed as he chews and he takes a deep breath that the hunter isn't even sure he needs. Though there is a strong hint of relish in the treat, Sam has noticed that, for Gabriel, pulling out candy is a tell. A tell that nearly screams the need for some kind of comfort in sticky situations. "Look. I like you, Sam. He, the other me, likes you. That's not an easy feat, either. He doesn't like anybody—doesn't trust anybody—but he likes you, for some reason. He thinks you're safe when you so obviously aren't. It's true, though. You can count on either of us to be there if you call. It's not like we have anything better to do."

Sam smiles, "That's what he said."

"That's because he gets all his good material from me. Bet he didn't tell you that, am I right?"

"No, he didn't. You should talk to him about stealing your thunder like that."

"Don't worry," Gabriel says. He still hasn't moved from where he landed minutes ago. "We'll be having some words."

"That's good to hear. Are you going to sit down at all or are you trying to perfect your statue impression? Because I can tell you right now not to quit your day job."

"Aw, kid, that really hurts." He snaps his fingers, though, and he's on Sam's bed with a bowl of ice cream. There are sprinkles on it and of course Gabriel would have rainbow freaking sprinkles. He digs in and Sam tries to squash the urge to tell him not to have food in his bed. He isn't expecting Gabriel to say anything else while there is ice cream to be eaten when the archangel frowns and his spoon slowly drops back into vanilla scoops, like he's suddenly lost his appetite. "You know how you said you'd be around?" he says slowly, "Can—can I take you up on that offer?"

Sam raises his eyebrows in surprise. "Of course. Any time. Offer never came off the table."

The ice cream vanishes only half eaten. It takes so long that Sam starts to think he isn't going to say anything until, "I sort of broke, okay? Like, after Lucy shanked me. I came back and I didn't know what to do. My brother killed me, Sam. I assume Dad brought me back, but he never said anything so it's anybody's guess. I miss hearing His voice. I'm the Messenger of God, but without a message, what purpose do I have? I can't just go back to being a pagan demi-god. You and your brother called me a coward and forced an archangel of judgement to judge himself only to find himself wanting. Wanting to make amends, wanting to stop hiding, wanting everything to go back to the way it was. Back before Lucifer and the Fall, when we were all relatively happy and things were simple.

"So, I broke. Started having panic attacks. Me, an archangel of the Lord, having panic attacks like one of you humans. I just wanted that safety of being the Trickster, but I couldn't put away the part of me that's an archangel like I used to. That's your fault, by the way, you and your brother's. I was so alone and if there is one thing I can't do, Winchester, it's being alone. Then one day, I suddenly wasn't. I broke apart and the Trickster was there to protect me, to keep me away from situations that would have me crumbling under the pressure, to keep me company. Because there is only so much a dog can do, you know?"

There's a lot of information for Sam to sift through, so he sits down next to Gabriel on the bed and puts his hand on the shorter man's arm. Gabriel looks up and his remarkable green eyes are heartbreaking. "You aren't alone, Gabriel. I don't know if that's why the Trickster brought you to me, but I won't abandon you. Not again. Not after we left you to your brother. I'm sorry I freaked you out the other day by putting myself in danger. I promise to try not to do it again."

Gabriel takes the hand that's on his arm and holds it in his, bringing it down to sit cradled in his own hands on his lap. Sam doesn't pull away. "Thanks."

"I know it isn't much, but you can find yourself a purpose here, if you don't want to go back to Heaven. And by here, I mean with us. Dean, Castiel, Bobby and me. We won't turn you away, if that's what you're afraid of. You could stick around, when you aren't flitting around the world causing chaos, I mean."

Gabriel squeezes Sam's hand. "I'll think about it," he says quietly.

"You do that. I have one more thing I want to tell you, if you're up to it."

"What is it?" Gabriel asks, suspicious. Sam wonders when Gabriel started thinking that everything has a catch, that there can't be kindness just for the sake of kindness.

Sam uses his other hand to cup Gabriel's cheek with his. He leans in, giving Gabriel enough time to back out if he wants to, but there is no rejection and Sam's lips touch the archangel's. It's a chaste kiss, nothing like what the Trickster did to Sam the other night. When he pulls away, Gabriel's eyes are searching, looking for something within Sam that he seems to find after a moment. He lets go of Sam's hand, but only to place both of his own on each of Sam's cheeks and surges up so their lips can meet again. Sam licks the seam of Gabriel's mouth and the archangel lets him in, their tongues exploring. It's passionate, it's wet, and it's so freaking good.

They pull away and Gabriel says, looking a little stunned, "That was more like show than tell, Samaroo."

"You're complaining about it?" Sam asks, mostly joking.

"Hell no! Where would you get an idea like that? In fact, I could stand for a little more showing, if you know what I mean."

"Maybe later. I don't want to take advantage of you in your oh so fragile emotional state."

Gabriel snorts, "Yeah, uh huh."

"Does this mean I'm going to finally get the old Gabriel back? The one that steals my stuff and leaves candy in my bed? The one that has trouble showing affection without the use of crude jokes and inappropriate touching? Because, admit it, you kind of like me."

"Hey! You're the one that just came onto me! And I humour you, you brat. That doesn't mean I actually like you. You're like an interesting pet or something."

"Right. So the Trickster was lying when he said you've been wanting to kiss me for 'ages,' I think he said?"

Gabriel's mouth falls open. "He said what now? I'll kill him."

Sam laughs. "I don't think you can actually kill yourself without doing yourself any harm. Though, it would be interesting to see you try."

"Shut up," Gabriel replies, "You know what I mean."

"So? Was he lying?"

The archangel rolls his eyes at him. "Fine. No. He wasn't lying. Can we get back to the kissing now?"

Sam leans in and kisses his cheek, grinning at the scowl that Gabriel aims at him.

"That's so funny, Sam," Gabriel dead-pans, "I'm laughing my ass off over here."

"I can see that," Sam laughs. He does lean back in for a real kiss this time, Gabriel making a disappointed sound and trying to follow when Sam ends it.

"You're such a tease!"

"Yeah, well, I'm going to get a crick in my neck. Why are you so little?"

"Short jokes?" Gabriel raises an eyebrow, "Really? You're just freakishly tall, Samsquatch. I think I can fix it, though."

Sam gets a lap full of archangel, this time with Gabriel straddling his legs. Gabriel grins and Sam can't help but return it, thankful that it's a real smile and not the forced one he's been getting used to seeing. "Oh yeah, much better. You know that Dean and Cas are probably going to be back soon, right?"

"Yeah," Gabriel draws the word out, "about that."

"What did you do?"

"...I might have just told baby bro that Dean should think about getting a second room for the night."

"Wow. Already planning on getting lucky? And did you really have to tell Dean like that?"

Like Sam predicts, his cell rings and it's Dean. "What the hell, Sammy? Gabriel?"

The archangel in question is now using this opportunity to explore the skin of Sam's neck with his mouth, leaving open-mouthed kisses and little nips as he goes. Sam has to swallow a gasp to reply, "Uh. Yes?"

"Okay, whatever. Use protection. You don't know where he's been. Also, tell Gabe that the second room is on him." It's apparently that simple, because Dean hangs up.

As Gabriel moves to gently tug on Sam's earlobe with his teeth, he whispers with a smirk in his voice, "Do you think Dean-O will use this gracious opportunity to get in my little brother's pants? Should I worry about Castiel's virtue? He never did get the sex talk, you know."

"I seriously didn't need the visual of Dean and Cas getting it on, thanks. They better, though. I'm getting really tired of all the eye-fucking and unresolved sexual tension."

"Do you think a particularly thoughtful gift basket would help? One filled with candy and lube? Maybe some booze?"

"Gabriel, that's the kind of gift basket you would enjoy getting."

"You're right. Too subtle. I'll add a card that says 'Just fuck already. Love Sammy and the Messenger of God.' Do you think Hallmark makes those?"

"No, I don't think they do. You're seriously weird, did you know that?"

Gabriel bites the place where his shoulder and neck meet and then soothes the hurt with his tongue. "You love me anyway, admit it."

"'I humour you, you brat' was the phrase you used. Apt, I think."

"Hoisted on my own petard. Damn."

"Don't tell me that's never happened to you before," Sam teases.

"Less talking, more kissing."

"Bossy," Sam murmurs, but he does kiss him.

"Archangel," he says against the hunter's lips, smiling.

"Less talking, more kissing," Sam returns.

Gabriel kisses with his whole self, as vast and brilliant as an archangel can be. There is passion, yes, but there is also a vulnerability to it, as if he wants to convince Sam to stay and this is the only way he knows how to communicate that. It's breathtaking having all of that attention focused on himself and Sam has to break away. He leans his forehead against the archangel's, breathing deeply of the warm sent of melted chocolate and mint. His arms are around the smaller man and he tightens the embrace as he leans back so that he's laying the bed with his legs still hanging over the side. Gabriel drapes himself over him with a contented sound and Sam thinks that if he were a cat, he'd start purring at any second. As it is, he's nuzzling the side of his face against Sam's. Sam cards his hand through Gabriel's hair and they just lay there for a long moment, saying nothing.

Sam breaks the silence, "I meant what I said when I told you I wanted to wait."

"What are you? A fifteen year old girl? I'm not fragile, Sam."

Sam smacks him lightly across the back of his head. "I know you aren't-"

"I'm just messing with you, Samster. I know you meant it," he pauses. "Thanks."

"You weren't the only one worried about someone, you know." Sam ruffles the archangel's hair, which earns me a growl and a nip at his jawbone. "You really like to bite, don't you?"

"Hello? Oral fixation. It's kind of my thing. Lucky you, though, Sam. It means I'm very good with my mouth."

He can't help the flush that spreads spreads from his cheeks all the way down his neck. It's different now from when Gabriel would hit on him before, because now it actually means something and God, that is a scary yet exhilarating thought. The other man makes a delighted sound when he notices and attacks Sam's jawline with lips and teeth.

They don't have sex that night. Instead, they climb under the covers and Gabriel clings to him with octopus limbs. They talk quietly in the darkness until Gabriel's voice draws him into sleep. Sam wakes a few hours later to flashing, golden eyes. To his sleepy brain, he thinks he might see a bit of tenderness in his gaze. The Trickster kisses him once, slow and grateful. He settles back against Sam and whispers into his ear, "Goodbye, Sam. Take care of Gabriel for me. Go back to sleep."

Sam hums in reply. When he wakes, Gabriel is there, lounging with a plate stacked high with pancakes and melting whipped cream. The archangel grins and asks, "Breakfast?"