"Gabriel, you are not wearing that."

Gabriel frowns in confusion as he looks down at his outfit. "But it's my favorite suit! You said I had to wear a suit."

Sam sighs and fiddles with his own tie in the mirror. "It's lime green, Gabriel. Don't you have something more…conservative?"

He watches Gabriel turn and head back to the closet, grumbling.

"This conservative enough, Sammykins?"

Gabriel spreads his arms and twirls to show off the little black dress clinging to him, paired with stockings and shiny black heels. It would be perfectly appropriate for a benefit dinner with a group of lawyers and wealthy donors, if Gabriel wasn't a man. As it is, bringing Gabriel is going to raise quite a few eyebrows. Sam's nerves are shot already, from hours of worrying over his speech and pretty much everything else about this stupid event. So he snaps back at Gabriel with a little more vehemence than he intended.

"Jesus, Gabe, can you please take this seriously? The cab's going to be here in ten minutes, can't you just dress normally and not be-"

The humor disappears from Gabriel's eyes, replaced by something hard and cold. "Not be myself?"

Sam scrubs a hand over his face and sighs. "No, that's not what I meant."

They'd been getting into these disagreements more and more lately, and Gabriel had taken to spending large amounts of time up in his studio working, painting and sculpting alone instead of nestled into bed with Sam at night. Sam has no idea how it started, and he's been trying, but he usually ends up putting his foot in his mouth. Like now.

"Look, just-" He reaches out to Gabe, but the man just moves away, avoiding Sam's eyes.

"I'll meet you downstairs." Gabriel sounds like he's biting back something less polite, so Sam grabs his tux jacket and heads down to wait by the door.

When Gabriel appears, Sam's breath catches in his throat. Gabe had looked good in the dress, the way no other man Sam's ever met would look good in one - and Sam's not about to deny his stocking kink - but in this tailored, deep blue tuxedo, with silky black lapels and tie, Gabriel looks sleek and magnificent. It's a shame he has to bundle up under a scarf and coat.

Sam just gapes until Gabriel's reached his side then helps the shorter man into his coat. He pauses with his arms wrapped around Gabriel to press a kiss to the dark golden curls just behind his ear.

"You look amazing. Thank you for putting up with me."

Gabriel just turns in his arms and kisses the corner of Sam's mouth, a soft brush of lips before he moves away.

The benefit is in full swing when they arrive. As they're checking their coats, Sam spots Zachariah and winces when his boss sees him.

"Shit, he's seen us already."

Gabriel just slips an arm over Sam's and gives him a grin. "C'mon, kiddo, he's too busy sucking up to give you grief. Might as well go say hi and get it over with. The sooner we do, the sooner I can raid the buffet."

When they approach, Zachariah and his squat, thin-lipped wife greet Sam and introduce the donors clustered around. The men are wearing watches worth more than Sam makes in a week, and their wives - or, more likely, mistresses - are wearing equally expensive accessories.

"Sam Winchester? Zachariah's been singing your praises for quite a while now. It's nice to finally meet you."

"Nice to meet you as well, Mister…?"

"Lucifer Milton." The man offers his hand to Sam. His hand is cool and dry in Sam's. "My parents were very religious, everyone asks." The man studies Sam for a moment, the intensity of his glance catching Sam a little off-guard, then turns to the dark-haired woman at his side. "My wife, Meg."

When Sam introduces Gabriel, Meg's eyebrows shoot sky high. "I own quite a few of your pieces, Mr. Novak."

"The lady has good taste," Gabriel says with a waggle of his own brows.

While Gabe chats with Meg, Zachariah pulls Sam away.

"Smart move bringing the artist after all, Meg's a big fan. Might up their contribution."

Sam tries his best to stay civil. "Of course I brought Gabriel. He's my—"

Zachariah cuts him off with a wave, thrusting a flute of champagne into Sam's hand. "Yeah, yeah, I don't need to hear about whatever you two get up to. Just keep up the good work sucking up to the donors."

Sam nods tersely, biting back a retort, and grabs another glass for Gabriel.

Another couple has joined their cluster. Chuck Shurley, bestselling author, and his girlfriend Becky Rosen. Sam's worked with Chuck a few times; the author is friendly, down-to-earth, and easier to work with than most of the clients Zachariah assigns to him.

"Hey Sam, how've you been?" They shake hands, and Sam asks about Chuck's latest book.

Eventually Gabriel breaks in. "On the Head of a Pin is one of the only books I've started reading and actually been able to finish lately." He takes a sip of champagne. "But I gotta tell ya, the art? Ouch," he says with a theatrical wince.

Sam chokes and tries to say something, but Becky interrupts. "What was wrong with the art?"

It's like watching a train heading for a car stalled on the tracks, as Gabriel snorts and tells Becky exactly what he thinks.

"Oh, c'mon, it was amateur. I mean, the artist needs a few more lessons, at least, to draw good stick figures, let alone—"

With murder in her eyes, Becky clutches Chuck's arm without another word and stalks away, leaving Gabriel confused, Sam mortified, the Miltons amused, and Zachariah furious.

"What?" Gabe asks. "I mean, she probably thinks her honey there can do no wrong, but—"

"It may have been prudent to mention," Lucifer says as he wipes tears of mirth from his eyes, "that Becky is not only Chuck's girlfriend but also his illustrator."

Gabriel's look of horror as he turns to Sam would be hilarious if Sam wasn't…well, himself in this situation.

"Oh, uh, whoops."

Zachariah's face is turning a shade bordering on plum, so Sam excuses them and drags Gabriel away.

"Sammich, had I know, I would have kept my mouth shut! Even if her art is only marginally better than a blind kid fingerpainting."

Sam gives him a bitchface, as Dean's named it, and Gabriel has the sense to shut up. They manage to load plates at the buffet without any mishaps, chatting with a few other donors with no more incidents. It's not until Sam finds their seats that he realizes things are about to potentially get much worse. Someone clearly not familiar with the Carrigan family - that is, someone who's been living under a rock - has seated Sam and his live-in boyfriend at the same table as one of the most socially conservative (and vocally anti-gay) couples attending the event.

Sam would almost prefer to sit with Chuck and Becky, who is currently gesturing vehemently to the people at her table as she talks and keeps glaring over at Gabriel.

"Shit, Sam says, relieved that at least for now, the Carrigans are nowhere in sight.

"Whuzzit?" Gabriel manages to say around the massive chunk of pineapple in his mouth.

"Look who we're sitting with." Gabriel's eyes follow Sam's gaze to the placard. His eyebrows shoot up as he swallows and looks back at Sam.

"Look, just don't respond to them, okay, if they say anything."

"Oh, c'mon, you know they're going to, kiddo!" At the look on Sam's face, he holds up his hands in a placating gesture. "But I'll try, for you."

"I just don't want to piss Zachariah off any more. Last time he was this mad at me…" They both shudder at the memory of Sam having to practically live at the office for two weeks working on clients that no one else would have taken except under threat of violence.

Gabriel plops down into his chair, fussing with some toothpicks and bits of bread. "Worse comes to worst, you can at least outrun him."

"Let's hope I don't have to," Sam murmurs with a wry grin as he sits.

"Oh, here we are!" A matronly, cheerful woman proclaims to her husband. Madge and Edward Carrigan take their seats, along with the last couple assigned to their table. Sam gulps down another mouthful of champagne.

"I'm Garth Collins, and this is my lovely wife, Jessica." Garth is pale and scrawny, but his wife is a stunner, blonde and curvy. She waves shyly to the table with a smile.

"Edward Carrigan and Madge, my wife." His introduction sparks a few chuckles, since everyone at the table knows exactly who they are. "So one of you must be the lawyer of the bunch!" He's looking at Sam and Gabriel.

"That, uh, would be me. Sam Winchester, nice to meet all of you. I work with Zachariah. And this is Gabriel Novak."

"How lovely! And do you work with the firm as well, Mr. Novak?

Gabriel looks like he's about to say something crude, but Sam catches his eye and silently begs. "I'm an artist, actually."

"Not one of those modern art types, I hope? I much prefer a good Romantic painting."

"Unfortunately," Gabriel replies wryly, prompting Sam to nudge his under the table. Gabriel nudges him back.

"Are you one of the donors?" Garth asks with what Sam thinks is probably simple curiosity. He wishes they would steer away from Gabriel and talk about something else, if only for the sake of keeping the peace.

"I'm successful, but not that successful," Gabriel replies with a grin. "Nope, I'm here with Sam."

A flash of realization flits across the Carrigan's faces, brows furrowing while their smiles, now plastered-on and even more phony, remain.

"Oh? You two know each other, then?" Madge asks tentatively.

Gabriel's about to answer, but Sam finally beats him to it. "Yes, pretty well. Mr. Carrigan, I saw you were on CNN again yesterday? They must get used to seeing you in the studio."

The Carrigans exchange another brief look before Edward replies. "Yes, it's my seventh time, and I've got to say…"

Sam barely hears his answer, only nods and pretends to listen as he tries to slow his heartbeat. Everything goes fine — Gabriel chatting with Jessica while Edward and Sam discuss a few recent cases, Madge listening in — until the next trip to the buffet. Edward, Garth, Gabriel, and Sam are filling their plates again when Edward leans in and speaks quietly to Sam.

"I hope our questions earlier to your artist friend weren't too…well, so many gays around these days, you never know," he jokes with a conciliatory chuckle. Sam can feel Gabriel tense behind him and has a moment to think ohshit before an arm wraps around his waist.

"Yeah, you'll find fags everywhere, how dare we," Gabriel says in a dangerously even tone. "Isn't that right, Sammy?"

Sam freezes at the stunned look on Carrigan's face when Gabe presses a kiss to Sam's cheek, turned to keep eye contact with Carrigan.

"I, uh," one of them manages to gurgle out.

"Meet you back at the table, darling, I think I've lost my appetite." Gabriel sidles off, leaving Sam to deal with Carrigan.

"Well, I thought—uh, I think Madge and I will just find somewhere else to sit."

Sam follows him back to the table, where Gabriel is slouched in his chair, glaring at the champagne glass clutched in one hand's tight grip. Edward pulls Madge to her feet, whispering something to her that makes her face pale.

"We're going to another table," he announces.

"Did, did something happen?" Garth asks, looking confused again.

"My wife and I choose not to associate with certain types of people," Carrigan says with a pointed look at Gabriel and Sam. "So we'll be finding other seats. Nice to meet both of you, Jessica and Garth."


"What the esteemed Mr. Carrigan means, chuckles, is that he's horrified and appalled to be seen associating with 'the gays'," Gabriel spits with a twitch of his fingers into air quotes. "And therefore wants to get as far away from Sam and I as possible. Feel free to join them if you're afraid of our cooties."

Garth just mouths like a beached fish while Jessica flushes. "It's not a problem for us," she says, but it doesn't soothe Gabriel at all.

"Bad enough I'm just an artist, not some millionaire businessman, but living with another man, well, how dare I!" His eyes glint dark and dangerous as he takes a step closer to Edward, whose hands are clenched into tight fists. Sam jumps between them, hands held up to placate them.

"I think we should all settle down. Mr. Carrigan, if you'd like to go sit elsewhere, the Hawthornes seem to have space at their table now. I'm sure they'd love to sit with you."

"Well! I'll certainly be speaking to Zachariah about this, Mr. Winchester, and about who he allows to attend these events - and work for him! If this is the kind of behavior he allows, perhaps we'll be rethinking our contributions in the future."

"I'm very sorry, Mrs. Carrigan," Sam says, trying not to panic at the thought of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. The couple stalks away, and Sam turns back to the table to see that Garth and Jessica have fled to the buffet, leaving Gabriel staring daggers at Sam. Half the eyes in the surrounding area are still on them.

"Did you just apologize to them?" Gabriel hisses. Sam tries to get Gabriel to sit, but he wrenches his arm from Sam's grasp, waiting for an answer.

"Look, Gabriel, will you just sit down so we can—"

"I don't want to sit down, I want you to tell me why you apologized to those homophobic idiots!"

"I didn't, I mean, it's just that they're very important donors and…I told you they'd be like that!"

"So that makes it okay? So it's okay for them to treat us like that?"

"No, it isn't. Look, let's just go outside for a bit—"

"Why, are you embarrassed of me, Sam? Too ashamed to be seen in public with your artist boyfriend?"

"Yes, when you're acting like this!" Sam retorts before he can think better of it.

Gabriel just stares at him, hurt and shock and anger in his eyes. "I knew it. All this," he gestures at the wealth of his surroundings, two-hundred-dollar appetizers and thousand-dollar dresses, "it's always gonna be more important, your job is always gonna be more important. I knew, and I still let myself think, maybe he's better than that."

Gabriel grabs his champagne, finishes it in one swallow, and salutes to the watching masses. "I'll just get out of your hair then."

Sam tries to follow as Gabriel flees, but a pudgy hand on his shoulder stops him.

"Sam, what the hell is going on?"

Every particle of Sam screams at him to follow Gabriel, but by the time he's managed to get away from Zachariah, Gabriel is nowhere to be found. He has to make his speech, but Gabriel…Sam's torn between leaving and staying, and then they're announcing his name and in his panic and confusion, he allows himself to be herded onstage.

He'll regret it later.

Sam barely makes it through his speech, hardly able to remember the right words to say as panic crests inside of him. He needs to get home, to find Gabriel.

When he finally catches a cab home, he tells the driver to keep the change and races up the front steps. Their room is undisturbed, just like the rest of the house—chilly and dark—and Gabriel is nowhere to be found. There's one last place for Sam to check, and his heart pounds as he runs up the attic steps and throws the door open.

It's empty.

All of Gabriel's supplies—canvasses, brushes, clay, paint tubes—are gone, along with the projects he'd been working on. Sam leans against the door frame, knees suddenly weak, and chokes back a dry sob.

He tries Gabriel's phone three times. Each time, the voicemail message plays, but he only leaves a message once, simply asking for Gabriel to call him. Eventually, he sleeps on the attic's dusty floor.

The buzz of his phone startles him awake the next morning.

" 'Lo?"

"Samuel?" Something about British accent sounds familiar.


"Wonderful. Glad we finally get to meet at long last. Balthazar, Gabriel's brother. Would say I'm charmed, but considering, I really don't think I am."

"Is Gabriel with you? I tried to call—"

"Gabriel's staying with me, yes. And don't bother asking where, since I'm not going to tell you."

"Could I at least…talk to him?"

There's a rustling noise on the end of the phone and a muted conversation before Balthazar returns. "I'm afraid not. He's still rather upset, understandably so from what he's told me."

Any other time, Balthazar's sanctimonious tone would annoy Sam. "Okay," Sam manages to say quietly. "It's good to know he's okay. Uh, have him call me, if he wants."

There's a click, and the line goes dead. Sam sighs and scrubs at his eyes.

Even though he has the emotional range of a teaspoon, Dean can tell something's wrong when he calls later that week.

"Sammy, you sound like hell. Uh, job going okay?"

It's a pathetic attempt to get Sam to talk, but the fact that Dean even asks prompts Sam to speak.

"Not really, Zachariah's been on my ass since the weekend. I, um…" Sam takes a deep, shaky breath. "I fucked everything up."

"Something go wrong at that benefit thing? I know you've been bitching about it for weeks." There's a clank in the background, and Dean swears. "Sorry, just dropped the wrench."

"It wasn't the benefit -I mean it was, but it's not just that, I…Gabriel left, Dean."

There's silence on the other end, for just a moment. "Shit, Sammy, what happened?"

Sam gives Dean an abbreviated version of the story. Telling Dean makes it seem far too real; Gabriel's absence hadn't yet felt strange, as though shock was holding Sam's feelings at bay. But there's a roiling of guilt and panic in his gut that's unleashed as he recounts what happened. My fault, he thinks over and over in an accusing mantra.

"That's rough, Sammy, it is. You don't know anything about his brother, where he might be?"

"No, and it's not like I could just show up there and demand to see Gabriel if he doesn't want to see me."

Dean offers sympathies but doesn't have any advice. His only relationship in a long line of one-night stands - with Lisa, whom Sam had liked, not least of all because she put up with Dean - had ended badly, things thrown and door slammed and her name now taboo.

The king-size bed feels huge without Gabriel there beside him or sprawled across his chest snoring or straddling him, gasping into Sam's mouth as their hips roll together. The thought makes Sam nauseous, his sleep fitful and fragmented by dreams and guilt. After a few days, the dark circles held at bay by a few hours of rest a night while Gabriel was around to soothe his sleep appear under his eyes. The panic still roils deep within him, reminding him of what he's done even when his mind is consciously half-occupied by some law book or dull TV show.

Dean calls again at the end of the week, but Sam has nothing new to tell him. He hasn't tried Gabriel's phone again, too afraid of reaching Balthazar or perhaps too afraid Gabriel might answer this time. He answers Dean's questions, pretends to listen, but his mind is elsewhere.

"Look, Sammy, I don't wanna get all chick-flick, and let's pretend I never said this, but…there's nothing you can do, man. Just…give it some time, or something?"

"Thanks, Dean." Sam's lips quirk up at the edges into what might be the first hint of a smile since the benefit.

He takes Dean's advice and tries to tell himself that Gabriel will call - he will - if Sam can just be patient. Even if his mind tries to persuade him that Gabriel doesn't owe him even a phone call after the way he's been treated. So he cleans the house, even Gabriel's studio, collecting dirty dishes and sweeping and dusting and vacuuming, until he's tired enough to collapse into bed.

Sam somehow makes it through the week, mostly by avoiding Zachariah and burying himself in paperwork. On Saturday afternoon, Sam gives in and calls Gabriel again for the first time since he spoke to Balthazar. Hearing Gabriel's voice on the message knocks the wind from him, and he has to clear his throat after the long, harsh beep before he can talk.

"Hey, it's me…uh, Sam. I dunno if you're still staying at Balthazar's but, uh…well, I hope you are, or you're someplace safe." He pauses, rubbing a hand over his nape. "I cleaned the other day. First time in a while, I know, but I even picked up the studio a bit, in case. I-" Sam chokes up. "Gabriel, um, if you could just, call me or…please, come home. I'm so sorry." He ends the call with shaking hands.

Sam takes Monday off of work, ignoring Zachariah's huffy tirade on the phone and spending most of the day on the couch. He falls asleep late in the afternoon, but when he feels the ghost of a hand across his face, he startles up off the couch, knocking someone to the floor.

He looks down to see Gabriel sprawled on the carpet.

"Mmph, Gabriel? Are-are you all right?" He sits up quickly, rubbing a hand over his eyes.

"Yeah, it's me."

Sam helps him off the floor. "What are you- I mean-…uh, hi."

"Hey. I got your message."

They sit silently looking at each other, searching for something in each other's eyes. Sam reaches out without thinking, stopping his hand's unconscious movement just before his fingers tangle in Gabriel's own out of sheer habit.

"You, you were right, about everything. I was an idiot and should have stood up for you, for us, but I was afraid and weak, and I…." He trails off as he sees Gabriel's jaw clench. Sam can't find the right words to say what he needs to, so he just lets himself speak, not caring if he sounds like a babbling idiot as long as Gabriel doesn't leave.

"It wasn't just the other night, either. We've both been so distant, and I don't know how to fix it. I know I've been working too much and maybe you think I'm taking you for granted, but I- I-" Sam grabs Gabriel's hands now, overcome with the need to set things right, because he'd give anything to keep Gabriel here, to earn his forgiveness. "While you were gone, all I could think of is how stupid I was and how much I missed you-" His eyes feel glassy and wet, and he should be embarrassed but the shame of how he's treated Gabriel is worse than tearing up in front of someone who's seen him naked, for fuck's sake.

Gabriel's eyes go wide, and his hands grab Sam's right back. "Sam," he rasps out, "I missed you too." They stare at each other, frozen, waiting, until Gabriel sighs and leans forward to press their foreheads together. "I just felt like…maybe you were ashamed of me or something-"

"No." Sam jerks away, grabbing Gabriel's face in his hands so he can look into Gabriel's eyes. "I am never ashamed of you, Gabe. I might get annoyed, sure, but you…you make my life better, y'know? You remind me to live and it's amazing how you just do what you want and don't care what-"

He's cut off by Gabriel's mouth on his. The kiss fierce and insistent, and Sam gasps for air long moments later.

"I don't care if you wear crazy clothes and can't make small talk and don't-"

"Sam, shut up," Gabriel growls, kissing Sam again, and the rest of his words are swallowed between them.

Sam grips Gabriel's shoulders as if he's afraid that he's dreaming, but Gabriel's hands are no less bruising where they hold Sam's hips, tugging them closer until Gabriel can scramble onto Sam's lap, their mouths never parting for more than a moment while Gabriel pushes Sam down and clambers on top of him. Gabriel rolls himself sinuously against Sam, letting his fingers move to tangle in long, dark strands of hair as his hips press and undulate in slow, glorious waves. When Sam grabs the curve of Gabriel's ass and pulls him close, he wrings a groan from him that reverberates through Sam's chest. It's been weeks - no, Sam thinks, months - since he's felt like this, like his skin is too small to contain what he's feeling, how much he wants Gabriel; months when they went through the motions, eager to get off but not connecting, not seeing things falling apart around them.

Their clothes are discarded and Gabriel tugs Sam to the floor, grinding back against Sam's cock while he presses two of his fingers into Sam's mouth for Sam to lavish with his tongue. The warm suction makes Gabriel groan, and his eyes flutter shut for a moment at the sensation before he pulls his hand away and shoves the fingers inside himself, shuddering against Sam, who watches, rapt, as Gabriel stretches himself. Without warning, Gabriel pulls his fingers out, shifts, and slides down onto Sam, crying out in broken ecstasy as he takes all of Sam at once.

Sam bites his lip, trembling from the need to move, until Gabriel rolls his hips, fast and dirty and almost too much for Sam to stand. All he can do is gasp and shove Gabriel's hips down as his own thrust up, wringing another shout from Gabriel as he hits that sweet spot. Sam smears his thumb through the precome beading on the tip of Gabriel's cock and strokes in time with his thrusts, tight and relentless. Gabriel slides up and slams down on Sam, over and over until he's so close his vision's blurring at the edges but he has to wait, has to make Gabriel come first because he needs to watch, needs to see that look of sheer, startled pleasure on Gabriel's face. He isn't disappointed when he gasps out, "Don't leave me, don't ever leave me-" and Gabriel tenses and wails and pours in hot, heavy spurts across Sam's hand and chest. Gabriel's cry and the clench of his ass are too much, and Sam comes moments later.

When he can breathe again, Sam brushes his mouth against Gabriel's and wraps his arms around the smaller man, cradling him to his chest. "Y'know what I'm gonna do?" he mumbles. "I'm gonna quit my job. Screw them."

Gabriel leans away, surprised but pleased. "Really?"

"Yeah, really. I'll find something else."

"Sammy, you know you don't have to quit because of me."

Sam shrugs. "Not like they treated me very well either. I can't work someplace like that anymore. I'm gonna try not to be so..." He waves the hand that isn't wrapped around Gabe's waist. "...absent."

Gabriel snuggles against Sam's chest. "I'm gonna try too, Sam."

They fall asleep on the living room floor, naked and sticky and wrapped in each other's arms.