so @teenytinytony wrote some angst and then I fixed it because sHE IS A MEANIE WHO CAUSES PAIN
everything before the line break written by the Angel Toniel, everything after the line break written by me
Gabriel woke up feeling like his wings were still there and held as still as he could, trying to make it last as long as possible. He knew exactly how pathetic he was being, holding onto the feeling of phantom limbs rather than face the reality of the fact they were gone. He knew they were gone. He had felt them burn, the blinding heat and pain and the smell of burning grace. He almost missed it.
Now he was just cold. Cold and numb. Every day he forgot more about the things he had seen as his stupid sort-of human brain tried to comprehend everything that he had once been.
He couldn’t even remember what he had looked like, not really. He had vague ideas, some details that didn’t seem to fit together and an overwhelming sense of wrong whenever he tried to squash himself into three dimensions so he could comprehend it. He gave it up as a lost cause after a few days on earth, staring at his vessel’s eyes in the mirror and trying to accept that they were his eyes now and they were as close as he would ever get to the gold he used to wear. They were all he had left.
He sighed and pulled himself out from under three layers of blankets and brought already cold feet to the even colder floor. He pulled the top drawer of his bedside table open and found the small bible he had stolen for himself as soon as he realised he was forgetting. Not that he needed it for the words, just the pages and the fact it had been the only book in the run down motel he had been staying in back then. He had almost completely filled it with drawings, scrawled over the words in whatever pen he could get his hands on. There were feathers and eyes and claws and teeth and a smile that had comforted Mary herself. All of them were impossible and all of them were parts of who he had been. It was as close as he could get these days to remembering the whole.
He held the pen over the page for a moment before starting, wanting to draw the point where his wings connected while he still remembered it enough to try. He couldn’t remember how it had worked exactly but he wasn’t making a diagram here, just a sketch. Just enough to remember it later when all he had was a vague knowledge that it had existed. Not that it would help any, scribbled lines distorted by the text underneath could handle his true form even less than his brand new monkey brain. His pen tore through the paper.
There was nothing he wanted more in the world than to scream and hurl the god forsaken book at the wall, so he did. He kept screaming as he watched the book bounce off the wall opposite and fell to the floor and he carried on while he threw the pillows after it. The scream broke off with a whimper as Gabriel allowed himself to fall back onto the bed, bringing his knees up to his chin and trying desperately to control his breathing. He was an archangel, he did not cry.
There was a knock at the door.
“Hey. I found something,” came a voice from nearby, and Gabriel turned. The door was cracked open, but only a tiny bit, not enough for Gabriel to see who was there. He recognized the voice, though. How could he not? He’d spent years memorizing the voice of Sam Winchester.
He climbed off the bed and went to open the door. Getting up was the very last thing he felt like doing, but he was worried that if he didn’t get up, Sam would come in. And he didn’t want Sam to see him like this. It was bad enough that Sam had to watch him lose his powers, see his eyes fade every day, see him get even smaller and more broken than he already had been.
He definitely didn’t need to see Gabriel cry.
Gabriel pulled the door open fully, and Sam stepped inside immediately, closing it behind him.
“I found something,” he repeated, and now that Gabriel looked closer, Sam did have his hands behind his back, clutching something tight.
“Oh, yeah? What did you find?” Gabriel tried to sound interested, but it definitely came out more bitter than he’d intended.
Wordlessly, Sam extended his hand to Gabriel, opening it.
Inside was a single golden feather. Bright, sparkling gold, glinting with life - glinting with Grace, in fact. It fluttered around in Sam’s palm, jumping and dancing.
His world tilted on its side a bit, because that feather, that one feather, brought back so many memories all at once, and Gabriel’s brain wasn’t prepared for the sudden onslaught of emotions after the apathy he’d been feeling for weeks now.
“That’s not right.”
Sam frowned. “Not right? What do you mean?”
Gabriel pointed at the feather, and his hand was shaking so much that Sam couldn’t possibly miss it. “That’s not one of mine. It can’t be.”
“Can’t be anyone else’s,” Sam shrugged, not seeing the big deal. “Cas’ feathers aren’t gold. And we sure as hell haven’t had any other angels in here recently. Do you know how well this place is warded?”
“But-” Gabriel protested, still trying to figure this out in his mind. “This isn’t- it’s not how feathers work. They’re supposed to die. Once a feather falls out of an angel’s wings, it loses contact with the Grace, and it becomes just a regular feather. It doesn’t move like that. Here, I’ll show you.”
Gabriel didn’t have to move far. The floor was littered with feathers. Angels were supposed to shed, but only a few feathers a day - not the massive piles Gabriel had been producing recently. He bent down and picked one up, showing it to Sam. It was a dull yellowish brown color, limp and lifeless in Gabriel’s hand.
“That’s what mine look like.”
Sam held up the gold feather to the one Gabriel was holding, frowning at the difference between them.
“I don’t understand,” Sam finally said.
“Me neither, kiddo.”
“I could look into the lore-”
Sam cut himself off, figuring that if Gabriel didn’t know what was going on after millions of years of being an archangel, some old book in the bunker’s library definitely wasn’t going to have the answers he needed.
The two of them stared at each other, and then Gabriel plucked the sparkling gold feather out of Sam’s hand.
Immediately, it lost its shine. The bright, shining, ever-changing gold faded to the same sickening yellow of the other one in Gabriel’s hand. Gabriel stared at it in horror, a tight pain constricting his chest, because now it was gone. For a moment while he was staring at that feather he’d felt like he had a chance, like he was a real archangel again for just one moment, because there was something left of that part of him.
But it had burnt out too fast, just like the rest of him.
Sam must have seen the look of horror on Gabriel’s face. Ever so slowly, he reached out. He scooped up the two feathers in Gabriel’s hand and held them.
There was a pause in which nothing happened.
A tiny spark of light, right at the tip of one feather, hovering for a moment and then spreading itself all over both of them, lighting them up until they were quivering with some kind of raw power, dancing together in Sam’s palm.
“What the-” Gabriel breathed, staring at them.
“I don’t know,” Sam said. “I had a suspicion - I know this sounds crazy. And I’m not saying I’m special or anything, because we both know I’m not, but I thought maybe, it was doing that because I was holding it. I don’t know why. But it seems like I was right, doesn’t it?”
Gabriel let out a weak chuckle; his first in weeks, maybe months. He used to spend all of his time laughing, and now…
“Not special?” he asked in disbelief. “Sam, how can you even say that? Even if it wasn’t for… whatever’s going on here… Sam, of course you’re special. I’ve never met a human as special as you.”
Sam’s face flushed red. He’d never heard Gabriel compliment anyone quite so freely, without any kind of joke to mask what he was really saying. “This isn’t about me.”
“Touch me,” Gabriel blurted.
“What?” Sam frowned, staring at him.
“Touch me. Anywhere. Just- put a hand on my shoulder or something.”
Gabriel wasn’t sure it would work. But he’d reached the point where he didn’t care, and it had to be worth trying, because it wasn’t like his situation could get any worse. And sure, if it didn’t work, Sam would look weirdly at him for a while, but… well, Gabriel could always hide in his room. Or leave.
“Okay.” Sam still looked confused, but he did as Gabriel said, placing one hand gently on Gabriel’s shoulder, on top of his clothes.
Gabriel felt a tingle, somewhere deep inside his Grace. It wasn’t strong, and he usually wouldn’t have noticed it, if it wasn’t for how hard he was concentrating. But it was definitely there.
Gabriel placed his hand on top of Sam’s.
At the first skin on skin contact, Gabriel’s Grace flared inside him in a way that it hadn’t since he’d been at full power. It burst into showers of sparks inside of him, sparks that congregated at the base of his wings, and his other hand instinctively moved to his back, running his hands through the new feathers that were beginning to grow there. New, healthy feathers, strong as any he’d ever had in his life, strong enough to befit one of Heaven’s deadliest weapons.
For the first time in recent memory, Gabriel felt like an archangel again.
“Alright. This is good. Now, don’t ever move your hand.” Gabriel’s voice was shaking as he spoke, but it was stronger than it had been before.
“Gabriel, what’s going on?” Sam laughed nervously. “Not that I’m complaining, but…”
“It’s helping,” Gabriel explained. “You were right. The feather was glowing because you were holding it. And now that you’re touching me, I’m getting my Grace back. It’s more powerful. I’ve got new feathers. I know that probably doesn’t make any sense to you - hell, I have no clue what’s going on, or why - but it’s happening. So now we just have to hold hands. And not let go.”
Sam’s eyes widened, and he stared at Gabriel as though he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Me? I’m doing that?”
“Sure as hell can’t think of another explanation, sweetheart.” That was almost back to Gabriel’s old joking tone.
“How can I be doing that? I’d expect me being here to have the opposite effect, honestly.”
Gabriel shook his head. “I wouldn’t. You don’t give yourself enough credit.”
Sam snorted. “Yeah, lifetime of being called tainted does that to you.”
“I’ll prove it to you.”
Gabriel said it without thinking. He’d never shown his wings to anyone human. He definitely hadn’t shown his wings to anyone while they were charred and broken with more feathers falling to the floor by the second. But if it would make Sam feel even a little bit better-
Gabriel took a deep breath, and with a loud rustle, six wings burst from the middle of his back. They were full of holes, the light streaming through them from the window behind, and half the feathers were still lifeless and looked close to falling out, but there were, unmistakably, plenty of bright sparkling gold feathers sprouting from them now, and even as Sam watched, more of them sprung into being, a single gold thread twisting itself into a feather shape within the space of a few seconds.
Sam stared in awe. It was absolutely breathtaking to see. It felt like he was watching Gabriel heal.
“I can’t. No. It can’t be me. It’s not possible,” he insisted.
“Take your hand away,” Gabriel suggested.
Sam did as he was told. The golden feathers stayed, but they didn’t flutter like they had been a moment ago - they stayed still, no new ones growing.
Sam took Gabriel’s hand again.
A new feather appeared.
Sam wanted to touch them, to reach out and run his fingers through the wings. He wanted to hug Gabriel tight and tell him that he was beautiful. He wanted to cry with happiness at the knowledge that at least one thing he did in the world was actually good.
He didn’t do any of those things.
What he did do was squeeze Gabriel’s hand as tight as he could, holding it up to show Gabriel.
“Hold hands and never let go, you said?”
Gabriel nodded, still disoriented, still unable to believe that any of this was actually happening.
Sam brought Gabriel’s hand to his lips, pressing a soft kiss to the back of it, and Gabriel felt his Grace catch fire inside him, coursing through him, and he couldn’t tell for sure, but he was pretty certain he was glowing.
“Hold hands and never let go. I think we can manage that, together,” Sam smiled.
If Gabriel wasn’t very much mistaken, Sam was glowing a soft gold, too.