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NOTE: Tagged under "gen" because the first half is indeed gen & was the main drive for this story.

Everyone needs a place (on AO3)
By Clarity Enmuse
Word Count: 6,500+
Characters/pairings: Winchesters, Castiel/Gabriel/Sam
Rating : Teen
Timeline: Ambiguous S5: Gabriel joined TFW. Set after "My Bloody Valentine
Summary: (This whole thing started with one little idea I had:) Dean takes issue with Sam forgiving Gabriel for what he's done, but not seeming to forgive John.
Warnings: Past child abuse in the form of neglect and emotional abuse; ambiguous (depends on reader's perception) whether there was physical abuse.

Notes: This story was born of a little thought I had (see summary) and then somehow my OT3 feelings got wrapped into the second half of it. Title inspired by various Richard Siken poems.

---

Sam pushed his hair from his face and fixed a half-hearted glare on the archangel sitting across the table from him. Gabriel smirked around his lollypop and made his eyebrows dance again. Sam rolled his eyes at the now familiar eyebrow wriggle. The expression was ludicrous and the fact that Sam could barely hold back a smile when he saw it was probably part of the reason why Gabriel repeated the action so often.

The archangel had found the Winchesters shortly after Sam staggered out of the panic room at Bobby's post-Famine. No one had been thrilled when he suddenly showed up in the middle of a hunt, but Gabriel hadn't impeded the investigation and ultimately lent a helping hand. It had surprised Sam when Gabriel began stopping by at inconsequential times in addition to the occasional hunts. There was no other word to describe those visits except for "relaxing." Gabriel tried to get Sam to relax as well, but even if that wasn't successful (it rarely was, there were too many things Sam knew he needed to focus on), Gabriel would remain fairly low-key with his joking and banter.

The Apocalypse wasn't exactly looking any better, but Sam felt there was a slightly less desperate edge to their actions. Castiel still looked dull-eyed more often than not, but he was around and spoke with them. He had been particularly wary of Gabriel's intention to join but came around quickly; Sam suspected Castiel was desperately missing his kin after he'd been betrayed by seemingly every one of his kind. There were odd little moments of what looked like staring contests and little twitches of movement between the two angels that Sam could only assume meant they were communicating in a way that was beyond him. It was hilarious when Gabriel seemed to get fed up with that and suddenly hooked Castiel into a headlock and ruffled his hair. The first time it happened, Castiel had looked stunned, Dean somewhat scandalized, and after initial surprise, Sam had just laughed until he felt tears prickling his eyes.

"C'mon, Sammy. It would be a hoot!" Gabriel wheedled, "I promise it's a reputable installation."

Sam's eyebrows arched high. "I rarely think of strip joints as reputable," he replied. "Besides, I heard things went really poorly when Dean tried it before."

Gabriel scoffed at that and removed the lollypop from his mouth. "That's because this is not a bonding ritual to be taken lightly. Clearly Castiel needed brotherly accompaniment."

"Dude, that can also be super awkward." Sam made a face as he thought about some of the times where it had indeed gotten very awkward to be around Dean at some rather questionable clubs.

Gabriel stuck the lollypop back in his mouth. "Rest assured, no kinky shit. I'm just offering friendly companionship and an assurance that Cas keeps his butt in the chair to stick around and enjoy the fun."

Sam shook his head. "This is a horrible idea," he repeated.

"No, it is an amazing idea," Gabriel corrected. "Only reason you're invited is for the enjoyment of spectating because this is going to be hi-lar-ious," he said, distinguishing each syllable with a wide grin.

Holding up a hand in surrender, Sam said, "I'll leave it to you. But I'm not going. Either one or both of you are going to cause more trouble than the entertainment's worth." At the archangel's pout, Sam felt his lips twitch in a smile. "But I do want pictures."

With a wink, Gabriel held out his hand and said, "I think I can do that." Sam accepted the handshake without hesitation. "Deal."

"I didn't agree to something in trade, did I?" Sam asked as they separated hands, only then wondering if he'd overlooked part of their conversation.

Gabriel laughed. "Just be sure to capture Dean's reaction when he finds out where I've taken Cas."

The sound of Dean's voice filtered through the door preceding the beep of the card lock.

"—to try new things, Cas," Dean said as he came through the door, looking disgruntled. Castiel followed close behind him with a puzzled look and a full bag of takeout in his hand.

"I do not see the benefit of trying something that would be potentially harmful to my vessel," Castiel replied.

Dean stopped only a few feet into the room as his eyes caught on Gabriel sitting at the table. His lips pressed into a tight line as he glanced over the archangel. "Hunt's done. You missed out on clean-up," he told Gabriel. "What, do you have a new lead?"

Gabriel crunched into his lollypop as he leaned on the back legs of his chair. "Clean-up is boring, that's what the little guys are for," he said with a smirk. "And nah, no new hunt yet. I was waiting for you to be done with Blue Eyes, so I decided to keep Sammich company."

"What do you want with Castiel?" Dean asked with a suspicious frown.

"Don't you worry your empty little head." Gabriel snapped his fingers, leaving the chair to thump to the floor as he reappeared at Castiel's side. "Hand over the humans' eats, Bro. I'm taking you out."

Castiel's eyes narrowed slightly as he met the archangel's stare. "And where is it we are going?" he asked as he held the bag out in Dean's direction. The hunter grabbed the bag while he kept his unhappy glare on the angels.

With a smile, Gabriel clapped Castiel on the shoulder and said, "Oh, not far. There's this charming establishment down the road called Adonis." The archangel turned his head towards Sam with a wink just before he snapped his fingers and both angels disappeared.

It took a while for the name to sink in and connect with what Sam recalled of the neighborhood. He inhaled sharply and started coughing though laughter.

"What? What the hell?" Dean moved close enough to thump Sam on the back.

"Strip club," Sam gasped. He started breathing normally again and snickered. "Pretty sure it's a gay strip club."

"What the hell?" Dean slapped his hand on the table, expression thunderous. "I hope you're shitting me."

Sam's laughter died and he could feel his amusement quickly draining away. He attempted a smile and kept his voice gentle as he responded, "Gabriel's just taking him for a night out, giving Cas a diversion."

Dean's fingers curled into fists. "And, what, you just decide to sit there grinning?"

Do I look like I'm grinning? Sam thought, quite aware of how deep his frown currently went. "Weren't you just saying Castiel should try new things?"

"Not with that self-serving dick!" Dean snapped. He tipped his head back, glaring fiercely at the ceiling.

Before Dean could form the first syllable of either angels' names, Sam grabbed his brother's wrist and shook his head. "No, Dean, leave them alone." The incredulous stare Dean gave the hand wrapped around his wrist made Sam wince in apology and quickly withdraw. "Sorry," he said quietly, "but I think... it would be good for them. Even if it's a disaster, it's them doing something that isn't... business."

"Sam, it's the goddamn Trickster dragging naive, nerdy angel Cas to a freaking gay strip joint! In no way is that a good idea!"

Sam roughly ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. "Seemed like a fine idea to you when you went out to get him laid!" he countered.

With a huff, Dean said, "One, girls. Two, Cas is my friend. Thr—"

"Gabriel's his brother!" Sam interrupted.

"That doesn't mean a damn thing and you know it – Raphael is his brother and he killed Cas. Uriel, Zachariah, Michael, hell, even the fucking Devil."

"But Castiel and Gabriel are trying to make it mean something again," Sam argued. "You see that, don't you?" He had to ask because suddenly he wasn't so sure that the signs he saw as obvious were being acknowledged by Dean.

To Sam's disappointment, Dean's frown tightened and he shook his head. "Cas wants a connection, I know he does, but what reason does Gabriel have to reach out? He's been gone for literal ages and he made his new connections. I don't trust him, neither should Cas, but I get that he wants that to be real. What I don't get?" Dean pointed a finger just inches from Sam's face. "You."

Disappointment and frustration gave way to confusion. "What?"

"You. You trust the bastard, don't you? Why? Why the hell would you trust something like him? After everything we've been through, everything you've done?"

Sam forced himself to take a deep breath and leaned back in his chair, away from Dean's accusing finger. He managed to lift his eyes to Dean and keep eye contact for the duration of his reply, "I get what he was doing. It was lousy and I wish it hadn't happened that way, but I understand now. A-and I... I forgave him." He bowed his head as he finished. His chest felt almost too tight to breathe. He'd never said it so plainly before, though the sentiment had been growing since looking across the ring of flames and hearing the Trickster's true name. The forgiveness hadn't come until more recently and the trust was even newer, but Sam couldn't find it in himself to doubt.

The silence stretched uncomfortably long and Sam felt his heart sinking. He was starting to wish he’d taken Gabriel up on the offer of “educating Castiel.” Actually, Sam wouldn’t mind if Bobby called with a hunt that needed their immediate attention. This silence? It made Sam wish for any excuse to escape.

Sam risked looking up, glancing through his fringe to watch Dean shake his head slowly. Dean rubbed his face and Sam recognized the body language that meant his brother was sorting himself out before launching into something serious. Sam braced himself, shifting uncomfortably in his chair and folding his hands tightly together in his lap.

As if Sam's motion was the trigger, Dean turned to face Sam with one hand braced on the table. "Forgave him?" Dean asked, voice low and tight with anger. "You 'understand' what he did and you 'forgive' him?" Dean's free hand moved jerkily in motions clearly meant to signify something, but Sam wasn't sure what. "So what makes that feathered douchebag so fucking special, huh? Of anything you could choose to forgive, you choose him?" he demanded.

Sam lifted his chin but didn't feel any confidence with the gesture. "We need allies," he said quietly. "Gabriel genuinely wants to help. What he did before – what I forgive is what he's done to me... to us. His attempts at a lesson were..." Sam swallowed back the swell of despair that still filled him when he thought back to the countless Tuesdays and the dark months that followed and were erased. "It was horrible. But I get where he was coming from, what the intent was. So I can forgive him, I can move past that. Cas was going along with Heaven's plan before and we've gotten past that so—"

"Do not compare Castiel to that cowardly asshole," Dean cut in sharply. His fingers curled into fists. "Fuck. You don't even see it, do you? How can you forgive a monster when you won't even forgive Dad?" Dean slammed both hands on the table, making Sam jump in surprise. "You're saying that you forgive a goddamn monster over your own family!"

Sam felt his eyes widen as he stared at Dean, too stunned to immediately reply. Something in his chest clenched. Sam swallowed against the bitter taste threatening to rise in the back of his mouth. His voice was quiet when he spoke, but he managed to keep it steady. "Do you want to have a real conversation?"

Dean's frown deepened. "We're having a conversation," he countered.

Slowly, feeling somehow distant from his body, Sam shook his head. "No. You're trying to lecture me. About Dad, again." He watched confusion and suspicion fight for dominance of his brother's expression. Eventually Dean settled on something of a cross between petulance and frustration. Sam resisted the urge to sigh; this was probably going to be yet another opportunity missed.

"Fine. Explain what the hell you're talking about," Dean said. Much to Sam's surprise, Dean moved to the opposite side of the table and sat down. He spread his hands and tilted his chin up. "So talk."

Sam remained cautious, knowing the opening Dean was giving him would likely close, like it had so many times before. "Look, I... I know our family had to be different. I didn't need it to be like Leave it to Beaver or Growing Pains. I know it couldn't be perfect, but..." Sam closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "It wasn't okay, Dean."

"Dad tried his best, man;" Dean sounded more tired than angry.

Eyes still closed, Sam shook his head. "Know what I remember? A sea of faces belonging to people whose names I can't remember. Not just the kids from the dozens of schools we transferred through, but the adults Dad stuck us with. I remember feeling so damn hungry because Dad would be gone longer than he'd planned and knowing I couldn't complain or you'd get yourself into trouble stealing something for us."

"Sammy—"

"No! Listen to me for once about this, all of it!" Sam opened his eyes but couldn't be sure of his brother's expression because his vision was blurry. "You remember him differently or maybe you're blocking things or maybe he..." Sam couldn't finish the suspicion aloud, that John Winchester had known one of his sons wasn't quite human. "He was usually so cold and distant. And drunk? God, I hated him drunk, but at least if he was out and drank he'd come back and crash after you helped him clean up. If he stayed in? Shit, Dean, weren't you ever scared?"

Dean shook his head slowly. "He was... he'd be a mess, but he was just depressed and—"

"He could be a mean drunk," Sam said quietly. He stared blindly at his hands clenched together on the edge of the table. "Maybe you just... weren't there then," he muttered mostly to himself, trying to parse his memories without examining them too closely. The clearest memories, the ones that involved more details than just a sense of despair or fear, were from his teen years when Dean was off on his own more often than not. Maybe you really didn't see, he thought.

"Come on, Sammy," Dean said, his voice not quite as firm as he probably wanted it to be, "he could get stupid when he was drunk, do and say things he didn't mean. Handing us off as someone else's problem, okay, I see that. It sucked and he could've done things better probably, but what was he supposed to do? It was tough for him, too, you know? And he loved us, man. I know he sucked at ever telling you, but I know he loved you! He just always thought being hard on us would help us be better hunters."

"Has it never occurred to you that that's part of the problem?" Sam asked before Dean continued to fumble through reassurances. Sam met his brother's confused gaze. "Why 'better hunters'? Why couldn't the overall situation be different? We didn't have to live on the road, even if Dad was so damned determined to hunt. We've met and known plenty of people in the game who have long-term home bases, Dad knew them. Why drag your kids on the road? Even if he had to do that, why couldn't he let us make a choice to be something else?"

Dean's lips tightened momentarily and Sam recognized the stubborn expression all too well from past arguments. "It's about family, always was! We lost Mom, and Dad wanted us together. Once he knew the bad shit was out there, he needed us to be safe and for us to know how to deal with it on our own. We stick together. Seems now like that's where we'd have ended up whether or not he raised us hunters, huh? It's always been in our blood and if Dad hadn't prepared us, we'd have been screwed six ways from Sunday years ago."

"That doesn't mean it was okay to ignore that we were kids or neglect us! Being family and tossing out the occasional 'I love you' doesn't excuse what he did to me!"

"What are you talking about? Ordering you around on a hunt? Telling you to stop crying and grow a pair? Newsflash, that was—"

"Shut up!"

Sam only realized he'd shouted when he became aware of how quiet the room had gotten. He blinked and realized he was standing, leaning on the table with braced arms. Dean stared up at him warily but finally, finally Sam could see a spark of realization in his brother's eyes. Swallowing irritated his suddenly scratchy throat, but Sam needed a moment to collect himself.

"You know what the hardest thing was about that time travel trip? It wasn't seeing Mom or having Anna trying to kill me. It was seeing that young man who had all these wonderful dreams, best intentions, and happy family plans. That guy... I immediately got why Mom was with him and I could see them being good parents. I saw our parents and I loved them so much in that moment. I wanted their future to be different from our reality, and staring that guy in the eye, seeing him as he was then, I thought I could forgive him. I could have forgiven him, if I'd seen that John in Dad when we were growing up. But I didn't, Dean." Sam's head hurt and his eyes burned, but he knew that even if he was prone to crying that he wouldn't shed tears now.

"What I saw and what I got growing up was apathy at best, more often it was disdain and disappointment, and even the anger I could get over. But there was also suspicion and wariness. Rage and hatred that entered his eyes and passed his lips when the liquor made him forget there was any reason to hold his tongue. I didn't see love there, I honest to God cannot ever once remember seeing genuine love even on those rare occasions when I'd managed to make him proud."

Sam inhaled deeply and released a long, shaky breath. "So you want to get back to your original question, why I can't forgive Dad but I can forgive a being who isn't human? It's two distinctly different situations, Dean. I had to deal with Dad's shit most of my life and – while God help me, I loved him – I can't forgive what he did to me, what he left for us. He knew better, he was a good person who got twisted by tragedy and never recovered.

"The Trickster, Gabriel, I never expected to be helpful or kind or caring. I hate what he did in his shitty attempts to 'teach' me to let go, but I can't say I'm surprised by the methods. I'm surprised that he cared at all. I'm surprised that he's giving us a chance. He's... It's not something I ever expected, but it's good. So yeah, I can forgive him. I can work on letting go of that old anger and I can deal with the bad memories as I get to know the good in him now."

He felt exhausted as he stood there in the silence that followed. Sam's eyes closed on their own and he felt little tremors start to travel down his arms as the adrenaline that had fueled him through his rush of words faded. It was all out, now, missing only specific details. They'd never managed to get this far. Every time before Sam had tried to explain his issues with their dad had led to Dean getting overly defensive or angry, and Sam had preferred to back down than get into a full-blown argument. It was a little funny, he suddenly realized, that he finally said his piece in defense of someone else. "I wonder if he realizes I never would've said anything if he hadn't called Gabriel a monster;" Sam didn't realize he was mumbling aloud until he was halfway through his thought.

Startling himself, Sam blinked his eyes open and glanced across the table at his brother. Dean was pale and looked like he did when trying to hide an injury, lines of stress appearing around his eyes and mouth. For a moment their eyes met but Sam was too tired to try naming the emotions he saw in his brother's gaze.

With a sharp shake of his head, Dean broke eye contact and pushed away from the table. "Gonna go out. Find something we can have for breakfast tomorrow or something."

"Dean?" He ignored Sam's quiet calls as he turned to look for his keys, half-hidden on the pattern of the bed's comforter. As he moved to the door, Sam tried again, "Dean?"

Dean paused, staring at the handle in his hand with the door halfway open. After a moment he let out a gusty sigh and replied, "I need a few hours." He nodded at Sam's whispered "okay" and left the room. Just before the door clicked shut, Sam heard him say, "I'm sorry."

Sam nodded shakily to the empty room. After a few silent moments on his own, he pushed himself away from the table and stumbled over to his bed. He collapsed onto the mattress on his side and closed his eyes.

~ * ~

Sam didn't remember dozing off, but he must have managed it since he startled awake at the sudden blast of music filling the room. He rolled over, hand searching for his bag and the weapons within. Then Gabriel's voice cut through the loud instrumentals singing loudly, "I've got something to put in you!" Sam sat up, perplexed, as the song continued with, "At the gay bar, gay bar!"

Castiel sat slumped against the arm of the couch, looking rather dazed. Gabriel stood on Dean's bed, singing the rest of the song into a beer bottle as if it were a microphone. As Sam watched, Gabriel finished up his act with a short air guitar solo. With a snap of his fingers, the music cut off and the beer bottle disappeared.

With a wide grin, Gabriel bounced off the bed and went to sprawl on the couch next to Castiel. "Aw, don't tell me I broke you, kid." He laughed at the glare Castiel cast his way.

The easy way that Gabriel prodded Castiel's thigh with his foot made something in Sam both warm and ache. Sitting there, watching them, filled Sam abruptly with longing. The ache of his earlier argument with Dean sat heavily in his gut and gave rise to memories of loneliness, disappointment, and fear. He saw the slight upturn of Castiel's lips despite the sustained glare and Gabriel's usually hidden fondness light his eyes. Sam wanted to be accepted by them – he couldn't be all bad or too corrupted if these amazing beings welcomed him into their fold.

But even if he did have their acceptance (and he debated whether it was that or tolerance), he doubted it would continue if he admitted his deeper fantasies. Fantasies about the meeting of tongues and kisses to skin; sometimes dreaming about languid mornings and lazy kisses while too sleepy to quite untangle whose lips were doing what. While he knew Gabriel had accumulated a certain appreciation for human diversions, the archangel was an unusual case and certainly never indicated human vices were anything other than entertaining.

What Sam wanted would almost certainly appall the angels, or perhaps invoke pity (mocking was also possible, in Gabriel's case). Sam all too well remembered first seeing Castiel, how the angel's expressionless face had seemed even more shuttered as he said, "The boy with demon blood."

Sam turned his face away from the angels. His eyes landed on the bedside alarm clock and realized he couldn't have slept more than an hour. Still, it was impressive that Castiel had allowed Gabriel to keep him for such a length of time.

"Awful quiet over there, Sasquatch. Don't you want to hear about Castiel's favorite boy?" Gabriel's snickers cut off with a soft oof and a muttered, "That was harsh."

Sam didn't look over, not yet, but he pulled his emotions together enough that he could keep a bland tone as he responded. "I'd rather know what you did to get kicked out."

"I'm scandalized!" Gabriel answered with a dramatic gasp. "We left exactly when I planned it."

That tone of voice pulled a small smile onto Sam's lips. Despite the persistent ache haunting him, Sam turned his attention back to the angels and glanced at Castiel. "What did you two do?"

Since he wasn't confident enough to meet either angel's eyes, he couldn't read any hints in the heavy stare he could feel Castiel fix on him. The pause dragged on a couple beats longer than comfortable before Castiel replied, "I believe Gabriel thought I would begin to speak with the establishment's performers and 'ruin things' if we stayed any longer."

"Told you I didn't get us kicked out!"

"Also," Castiel calmly continued as if there had been no interruption, "Gabriel would soon have instigated an altercation due to his plans to join the dancers on stage."

"You sneaky, rotten liar!" Gabriel sounded shocked but pleased. Sam made the mistake of raising his gaze; as their eyes met, he watched the amusement fade from the archangel's expression. "What happened?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Sam said, knowing his reply was too stiff even if Gabriel hadn't already caught on that something was wrong.

"Did your idiot brother throw a tantrum for letting Cas out to play?" Gabriel asked with clear irritation. "He seriously needs to stop being obsessively territorial."

Sam pushed off the bed, planning to escape to the bathroom with the excuse of a shower. He shook his head at Gabriel's suggestions and tried to wave him off. "He wasn't happy but it's fine. He didn't call for you, did he? Don't worry about it. Look, I'm gonna sh—" He closed his mouth abruptly when Castiel appeared in front of him with his expression of concerned confusion.

"You are not well," the angel observed, "it would be irresponsible of us not to see to your wellbeing."

Sam swallowed thickly, his sense of longing taking a turn for the bitter. "Let me shower and sleep, I'll be fine in the morning."

"That's not what he meant, kiddo," Gabriel said, voice unusually gentle. Sam cast him a brief glance and found Gabriel sitting on the edge of the couch, leaning forward as if barely holding back from jumping up to join Castiel and Sam. "We're a little worried about..." he trailed off and made a face as he gestured vaguely.

"Your soul is dimmed," Castiel explained bluntly. Sam stared at him in surprise; bright blue eyes met his stare steadily. "I have noticed such changes before." The angel suddenly broke eye contact as he bowed his head slightly, strangely seeming... embarrassed? Quietly, Castiel said, "It shames me not to have questioned the cause before."

"Cas..." Sam took a step backwards and bumped into the nightstand. He was trapped between the two beds unless he wanted to attempt scrambling across a mattress and past two angels. Defeated, he slumped onto the edge of his bed and dropped his face into his hands. "It's seriously nothing, guys. Dean and I just had an old argument."

"About what?" Castiel inquired. Between his fingers, Sam could see the angel move to sit on the bed opposite him. Their feet were only a couple inches apart.

Sam sighed and let his hands drop between his knees. Shrugging, Sam admitted, "Dad. It's not a big deal, we just see a few things differently."

The mattress dipped, announcing Gabriel's presence before he spoke. "You've got this stupid cartoon cloud of angst hanging over your head, Sammich, so forgive me if I don't buy that lame attempt at a brush-off."

Sam frowned tightly and turned his head away from Gabriel. "Just because you decided to stick around and help out with the Apocalypse doesn't mean you get to pry into my life."

Gabriel groaned theatrically. "Kiddo, it would be a hell of a lot easier to read your thoughts in these situations but you've got a frustrating amount of shielding that gives me a damned headache to break through. Granted, this is comparatively just as frustrating, so hey, you can tell me or I could go digging around in your head, your—"

"Stay out of my head!" Sam snapped, fists clenching as his body responded with a sudden adrenaline spike. He didn't shiver by force of will despite the chills that ran through him at the thought of yet another being prodding around his head.

Castiel promised quietly, "I would not allow it." The sincere tone prompted Sam to look up and he found verification in the angel's expression. "Such intrusion has been forced upon you too often."

Sounding slightly chagrined, Gabriel muttered, "I was seriously offering 'your choice,' Sammy. You guys are frustratingly emotionally stunted sometimes, so maybe the whole bothersome mindreading process would be easier on you."

"No," Sam said firmly.

"Yeah, gathered that," Gabriel responded sarcastically, though it lacked a bite.

Sam rubbed at the tension forming into a headache at his temples. "Why do you care, anyway? My brother and I argue all the time. There's hunts that go shitty. It's the fucking Apocalypse. Do you really expect me, or my soul or whatever, to be a bright happy ball of sunshine?"

"Sam, you are important," Castiel said, knees moving closer to Sam's as the angel shifted, "to me." Sam's head jerked up at the addition. He knew his incredulity would be obvious but he was too startled to hide the expression. The small frown on Castiel's lips fell somewhere between confused and sad. "I wish my words would not cause your distrust."

"No! It's not that," Sam hurried to assure, not wanting to offend. "I trust you, Cas, of course I trust you. It's just... I know that Dean and I are important in this mess and..."

"That is not what I meant." Castiel's frown deepened, and Sam felt miserable for apparently saying the wrong thing.

He caught movement from the corner of his eye and watched as Gabriel reached out to place a hand on Castel's knee. Sam watched the angels stare at each other throughout a silent conversation. Eventually Castiel appeared to concede with a nod as Gabriel withdrew his hand.

Gabriel turned his attention to Sam. "Kiddo, if we only worried about the Apocalypse, One, things would be all business all the time – boring! Two, we wouldn't be around so often." Amber-hued eyes stared intently at Sam. "Look, as 'charming' as your brother is, I'm here because of you. And Cas—" there was something almost wistful in Gabriel's gaze as it flickered to the other angel and back to Sam "—cares for you."

"The question," Castiel said quietly, "is not 'are you well enough to hunt?' I—we wish to understand the cause of your sadness in order to offer comfort."

"You don't need to," Sam muttered, feeling bewildered by the angels' words. He could feel his heart racing as he tried to process. He knew he shouldn't try reading into the little glances or gentle tones, reaching for some deeper meaning behind the words. He trusted them to be telling the truth, even if he couldn't grasp the reasons why.

"We want to," Gabriel replied.

Sam felt the corner of his lip twitch up and he turned his head a little to look at the archangel. "You do what you want?"

That received a smirk. "Obviously." Gabriel stretched his leg over so he could bump knees with Sam. "So, we on the same page yet?"

Sam sighed and dragged a hand over his hair. He looked at Castiel and found the angel watching him with a steady, patient gaze. At this point, what did he really have to lose? Sam hunched over, letting his head drop forward as he rested his forearms on his thighs; he would try to explain, but that didn't mean he felt comfortable watching their reactions.

"We've fought a lot about Dad before. That's not new, but…" Sam closed his eyes and shook his head slightly. "Usually it's finished before we get anywhere. Just a few comments, you know? It's not— Dean's got his memories, I've got mine. We don't… really match up. So I usually just… let it go."

"And this time it went differently?" Castiel asked.

After a pause, Sam nodded. "He was just angry, unreasonable—" he ignored Gabriel's unimpressed snort "—about Gabriel taking off with you. It didn't start off about Dad, I thought it'd be…" he trailed off, realizing that at the very start of the argument he thought Dean was going to have it out with him about his history of misplaced trust. Sam had thought the argument could have been focused on his past mistakes, the ones that had led them to their current reality of Apocalyptic signs and counting down to the big finish. Sam didn't explain that, though, just shook away the thoughts and moved on. He glanced sidelong as Gabriel and continued, "But then he called you a... a monster."

Gabriel shrugged, taking it in stride. "Pretty sure I've been called worse, kiddo. But thanks for sticking up for the little guy," he said with a small smirk.

"I do not understand how this led to a confrontation about your father." Sam looked over to find Castiel's head tilted inquisitively.

"Ah... yeah... That'd be because Dean can't get why I forgive Gabriel," Sam ducked his head and closed his eyes, "but won't forgive Dad."

After what felt like an uncomfortable length of silence, Sam heard a low whistle from his side. "That's quite the…" Gabriel's voice trailed off for a moment. When he spoke again, it was a quiet, "Thank you."

"As I have told you, you needn't have worried," Castiel said.

Without raising his head, Sam glanced between the two angels, noting again the casual affection they shared. Something in his chest clenched and before he'd thought it through, Sam had opened his mouth and begun speaking.

"Your affection for Cas is obvious, and you clearly care for the world. You've helped so much and you're just… you're just you. There's no point holding onto grudges from one… incident. Even if you weren't an angel, you're not a monster. And I trust you so why wouldn't I—"

Sam startled at the sudden weight and warmth surrounding him. Gabriel's arm wrapped around his waist and the angel's cheek rested against his shoulder. Castiel's hands curled over Sam's. When the human looked up, bewildered, he found Castiel's face close to his own.

"Sam," the angel murmured a moment before closing the gap and pressing his lips against Sam's. The kiss was chaste, a light pressure and brush of chapped lips before there was space again. Castiel remained close, making it impossible for Sam to look anywhere else.

"You…" Sam swallowed hard and tried again. "You kissed me...?"

Against his shoulder, he felt more than heard Gabriel snicker. "Brilliant deduction, Sasquatch."

Dazed and still unable to look away from the serious blue gaze, Sam confessed, "I don't understand." That got a response of tightening grips on his hands and around his waist. Gabriel shifted, his head moving up until Sam could feel the angel's nose against his neck. Castiel leaned forward again and Sam closed his eyes as their cheeks met.

"You're an amazing man and I care for you a great deal, Sam Winchester," Castiel murmured.

Sam felt his breath stutter in his chest. He didn't know what to do with those words.

From the vicinity of his collar, Gabriel offered, "Cassie's failing at this, though at this point you're kind of just being dense. He likes you, he wants you. Romantically and sappily and all that jazz."

"I..." Sam knew he was gaping unattractively, but he didn't know what to say.

Castiel leaned back and tilted his head as his gaze dipped to Gabriel. The dark-haired angel looked mildly exasperated. "I believe there is something else for you to add."

Sam felt Gabriel lift his head and start to pull away; instinctively Sam grabbed hold of the archangel's shirt and held him close. Startled by his own audacity, Sam turned his gaze to Gabriel who quirked his eyebrows in silent question.

"Um... sorry," Sam muttered. Before he could let go, Gabriel's fingers closed gently over his.

With a slight smile holding more than a little amusement and affection, Gabriel said, "Okay. So maybe I get a kick out of you, too."

Sam felt dizzy as he tried to process the past several minutes. "Am I... dreaming?" he muttered dazedly, closing his eyes.

"Oh for—" Gabriel sighed. "What do you want? The whole song and dance? I get no kick from champagne, mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all—"

Castiel's broke in dryly, "I have you under my epidermis?"

Sam opened his eyes to stare in shock. At his side, Gabriel started laughing. "Wrong song but, yes, that! Exactly."

Castiel's eyes sparked with humor. He turned his soft smile to Sam. "You mean a great deal to us both, Sam."

"Cas is the sappy one, in case that wasn't clear," Gabriel muttered with an eye-roll. "But attraction is strange and complicated and crazy and doesn't usually make sense. Just like you." Sam couldn't decide if that was meant to be a complaint or compliment; when Gabriel leaned in to kiss the corner of his mouth, Sam decided to take it as the latter.

As Gabriel leaned back, Sam glanced between the angels and admitted, "I'm having some trouble believing this... but I don't want to question it."

"Then don't," Gabriel said, voice unusually gentle. Castiel met Sam's gaze and brushed Sam's hair away from his face. Gabriel trailed his fingers down Sam's cheek and rubbed his thumb over the human's bottom lip. "You don't have to think so hard about everything."

Castiel leaned close again to press his lips to Sam's, catching Gabriel's thumb in the process.

"Okay, that's two. Shove over," Gabriel complained, turning Sam's face so they could kiss. Gabriel offered more pressure and the slip of tongue along the seam of Sam's lips.

Sam wondered if they would always make it a contest. The thought surprised a laugh from him and when Gabriel leaned back with a pout, Sam laughed harder. He didn't know how the hell he'd ended up here, where he could smile and laugh, when not so long ago he'd ached with longing and resignation; but somehow he'd thought of always and something long-term. He looked at the angels and knew they weren't lying, this – whatever "this" was – wasn't a momentary thing. Sam didn't understand the reasons why or how he could be so fortunate, but maybe they'd be able to explain and maybe he would understand. Eventually.


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Credits: Songs quoted in some form during the story (in order of appearance) – "Gay Bar" Electric Six (YT vid, nsfw it's weird), "I get a kick out of you" Cole Porter (Louis Armstrong singing), "Under my skin" Cole Porter (Ella Fitzgerald singing).

There were also some of the "romantic confession" lines were adapted from things I've collected over the years on the NaNoWriMo forums for "adopt-a-line" threads. I kept getting stuck during writing and a little inspiration helped a lot.

Notes: I have complicated feelings about the characters of SPN, especially when it comes to the Winchester family. Dean's a good guy, but he's more stubborn than a belligerent ox when he's convinced he's right and anyone tries to contradict him. His experiences with John were also very different than Sam's – that's canon. As for John, I like the young him and much of Sam's confession in here express my feelings in that sense. I adore the young John, I love the potential he had. But who he turned into? No. I drew inspiration for Sam's childhood memories from what we see/hear in the show as well as what shows up in the comics (Hell, Dean's comment about "I know he didn't tell you..." is coming straight from some panels in Beginning's End) and in John Winchester's Journal.

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