The moment the infant soul fell into his hands, Gabriel knew. He knew all about the to-be person he held. His fate. What Gabriel's older brothers had dictated him to become. This innocent, little, always-shifting orb of light that rested in his palms.
And Gabriel hated it. Hated them. But, he loved them, too. And he loved his Father. So, really, what could he do? What could the great Archangel Gabriel do?
Nothing. Nothing that would matter in the long run, anyway. He could only do what he was told, or risk expulsion. Risk the fate of Lucifer. He couldn't do that. He didn't have the courage. Not to doubt, or to do what was right, or to save the little soul from damnation.
So, with a stuttered breath, Gabriel did his job. He told the soul everything. Everything that he would need to know for life. Gabriel explained to him what it meant to be alive, to be human. Even if Gabriel didn't understand what that meant himself, the Archangel knew how to describe it.
When he was finished, he placed his finger against the soul, silencing it. Because souls weren't meant to betray the secrets he gave them. Strange rule, really, but he supposed his Father considered it cheating. Free Will being hampered with the knowledge of Fate. How the two could co-exist, Gabriel would never know.
He gently slid his hand back into the Tree and released the soul into it. Only very special souls were allowed back into the Tree to ripen, and that particular one was very special. Even with his grim fate. And then Gabriel went about his business. Soul after soul. But that one, that special one, always plagued the back of his mind. He dreaded the day the kid would be born.
Time passed. Heaven changed. Gabriel changed. Things he once was terrified to do became easy. They became the only choices he could see to make. What could he say? Millenia telling humans what it's like to be Free gave him ideas.
However, despite his new-found freedoms, Heaven always stayed with him. It stayed with him in the form of beliefs. Human souls were diligent things. They remembered his teachings. Even after death, reincarnation, changing religions and political systems, or just plain ignorance. If the souls remembered him, the Archangel, then they, occasionally, would call out to him. Be that through prayer, or wishful thinking, or even a startled gasp just before Death came for them.
Gabriel couldn't get them out of his head. He couldn't ignore them, though he tried. He tried desperately. Because he was old and he was tired. And he knew the clock was ticking. On and on. Until the end.
The end began, for him, on a Monday. The day he, allegedly, held dominion over. The day the prayers were particularly loud, echoing around his now-human skull. They spread through his Grace like a cancer. But, to be more specific, it was Monday, May 2nd, 1983.
Gabriel felt him with the first breath he took. The first cry. It jolted him, shocks running along his spine and spreading across his wings. The fear that came with them caused Gabriel to stumble, his hand pressing against the bar he was standing beside. He forgot all about the target he'd been stalking. He forgot all about the humans giving him strange or worried looks, the sound of glasses clinking, and the jukebox in the corner.
Instead, he was forced to hear not only that infant soul but also his mother. Forced to hear one Mary Winchester's prayers that her newborn baby boy-Sam-would be safe. That no sickness or harm should befall him. That her old life would never find them and take him away. Every horrible thing a human-a Hunter-could imagine she prayed against. And Gabriel could only shake. He could only crack the table beneath his hand with his grip as he gritted his teeth.
Because every horrible thing he was asked to prevent could not be prevented. Because Samuel Winchester was, perhaps, the only soul in existence that he would never be allowed to save. Michael wouldn't allow it; Lucifer wouldn't allow it. God wouldn't allow it.
So, Gabriel ran. He covered his ears and he flew, leaving more than a few startled patrons behind. He flew to get away. He flew to drowned those prayers with the sound of wind tearing at his frame. Yet, no matter how many times he circled the globe, no matter how many times he dipped and he dived and he screamed, those prayers still reached him.
He stopped flying. He knew when to admit defeat. Gabriel wasn't shaking off a mother and a child. He couldn't. Law decreed it. Especially, that mother and child.
Eventually, Mary's prayers ceased. Gabriel knew why, of course. He tried not to let it bother him. He retreated further into his mask. A mask that that one, little soul always managed to skip around. Always managed to weasel his way in with questions.
At first, that's all they were. Faint questions of a newborn soul. 'Where did you go?' 'Why am I here?' Even trivial things like, 'Why is it cold?' 'Why am I hungry?' Extremely young children made no distinction when it came to prayer and idle thought. Then, as time passed and Samuel-Sammy-got older, the questions became proper prayers. The store-bought kind. Something he probably heard in a church or read in a book left, discarded, at a motel.
Gabriel hated them. They were a constant reminder of everything. But they also made him wonder. Wonder about the boy doomed to damnation. Doomed to be Lucifer's Vessel.
Sammy became Sam. Sam became rebellious. Gabriel scoffed a little at the literary symmetry his Father had made. Even so, Sam continued to pray. And his prayers evolved. They stopped being Hallmark and gravitated to true prayer. The kind that comes from the soul. A soul that needs help, that desires guidance and explanation. A soul that finds faith is all they have left. A soul that believes in redemption because, even though the mind was ignorant, the soul knew of the corruption.
It was then that Gabriel broke completely. Because here was the Boy with the Demon Blood knowing he was wrong, that he was wronged, and all he wanted was salvation. To be pure, as he had been millenia ago in Gabriel's hands. Before Gabriel put him back and left him to his horrific Fate.
Gabriel stayed broken. He didn't even bother to pick up his own pieces. Just left them lying on the floor as The Trickster went about his business. The Trickster didn't care about Sam. He didn't care about anything. He just wanted to have a little fun while taking out the trash.
Then Sam showed up. And Dean. But it was Sam that stunned The Trickster. He hadn't expected to see him. He hadn't wanted to see him. Yet, there he was. Right in front of him. Questioning him about The Trickster's latest victim.
The Trickster humored the boy. Used his silver tongue to enchant and his jokes to distract. Maybe he even flirted a bit. The whole while, Gabriel screamed. He screamed and he clawed. He beat his wings in anger. Because there was Sam. There was Sam Winchester in all his glory, dark taint hovering over brilliant, pure soul. And Gabriel couldn't rip it out of him. He couldn't reach out and stop the whole deadly train to Doomsday. He was too weak and The Trickster wouldn't let him.
Gabriel never forgot that encounter. Neither did The Trickster. When he caught wind of Dean's deal, he paused to think. He thought long and hard. Gabriel was anxious and afraid. There was no way to stop Dean's path. Contracts were to be obeyed. But, Sam. Sam was good. Mostly still good, anyway. He could be swayed. He still had a chance. Gabriel hoped he had a chance. The Trickster had a lesson to teach.
Of course, The Trickster was not The Messenger. Gabriel's desires fell on deaf ears. It was strange, listening to the kid simultaneously curse him and pray to him. It hurt to hear those prayers turn frantic. Pleading. Gabriel knew the exact minute Dean died. Because the brother was all Sam prayed for. A soul in pain, grieving, reaching out for comfort. Comfort Gabriel couldn't give to him. He couldn't bring Dean back. He wasn't allowed to. And Sam? Well. He probably wouldn't appreciate a guardian angel that looked like the creature that had tormented him for months. A guardian angel that was the creature that had tormented him for months.
Sam grew morose. Sam turned to the demon, Ruby. Sam became his own savior, and the savior of others, in a twisted sort of way. Gabriel grew morose. Gabriel, The Trickster, turned into a demon. Gabriel became his own adversary, and the adversary of others, for Gabriel was twisted.
He lashed out, eventually. Near the end. With Lucifer free and both sides screwing up the planet, with his brothers and sisters fighting one another again, he couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't tell where he ended and The Trickster began. He didn't care. So what if he simultaneously punished Sam and his brother while teaching them a lesson? So what if he, perhaps, blamed everything on the one, little soul he had condemned from the very beginning? That bright, shimmering soul that sought salvation even after he loosed the Serpent on them all.
It was Gabriel who wound up learning his lesson. Gabriel who became a newborn soul being instructed by another and left behind, silenced, to ponder on the words spoken to him. As he stood, the Prince of Water ironically being rained on, it was Gabriel who was forced to face himself and all the things he'd ever done wrong. Not Sam.
The truth of the matter was, Sam had done nothing wrong. Not really. He'd been led and guided all his life by demons and angels. Guided towards Fate and forced to walk along it. While Gabriel? Gabriel had done nothing. Nothing of value. Stood to reason that he had nothing to show for it but the broken pieces of himself that he had to, finally, pick up off the floor and put back together.
Because he'd seen the way Sam had glared him. Seen how furious the kid was at this Archangel that he, unbeknownst to him, had prayed to all his life. The Archangel that had let him down in every way possible. The Archangel that had let himself down. For he was a coward.
Well, no more. Sam's soul still shown bright. He still prayed, even though Gabriel could feel the underlying resentment the boy had towards angels. If Sam, that infant soul from so long ago, had the brass to fight tooth-and-nail against Fate and against God, against Heaven and Hell, against the very blood pumping through his veins…then Gabriel supposed he could fight Fate, too.
Too bad he'd have to use his own body to derail it. To stop his brother from killing his new family and to prevent him from tainting that soul any further than he already had. Too bad he still wasn't strong enough to do anything but paint the floor with his ashen wings.
He'd have liked to thank Sam, properly, one day. That porn DVD just wasn't going to cut it. Ah. At least they could say he went out with a bang.