A/N: Before we begin, I'd like to say that this story takes place within the same storyline as my fics The Horn's Grace and Tearing Up the Script. You don't have to read those to understand this, but if you have read those fics, this might give you a little something extra to entertain yourselves with. Or just make you ask a thousand more questions. Either way works for me.
Title for this fic inspired by the many songs listened to while writing it, including but not limited to: "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum, "Run Away" by Real McCoy, "Mountains" by Message to Bears, and "Run Boy Run" by Woodkid. Give 'em a listen and the obvious theme will be very fuckin' obvious.
Gabriel smiled as he watched the young man work in the Garden.
They weren't supposed to be here. Either of them. For the boy's parents, his very species, had been barred entrance...and Gabriel was supposed to be dead.
Gabriel was just as surprised about that fact as he imagined any of the angels would be, if he ever felt like showing his face around them again. Which he didn't. Better to pretend to be dead than to be used as a pawn in The Game. Nope. He'd already fulfilled that role. Got stabbed for it. Died for it and a pair - no, a trio - of knuckleheads that hadn't even bothered to hold a memorial service in his honor.
"Oh, boohoo, stop sobbing," he'd joked when he'd made that fake porno. His flippancy made it sound like he didn't care if anyone mourned him or not. His heart told him differently. Unfortunately. Giving a damn sucked.
So! When resurrection time came, shortly after his two brothers had been slammed back into the Box, Gabriel told himself, "Screw that." He wasn't going to give a damn anymore. He wasn't going to be used and tossed aside. He sure as hell wasn't going to be punished for having chosen that same path many millennia ago.
Gabriel chose life, that good ol' self-preservation, and he'd flown to Heaven to wait out the aftermath that he knew was to come. Sure, it didn't seem logical to fly to the very place where all his pesky, grabby siblings lived. However, Gabriel had a plan.
Gabriel was old. So very old. He was older than Heaven itself, a descriptor that only eight beings in the Universe could proudly own. Well, six beings, a species of extremely hungry beasts, and sentient chaos, but who was keeping track of specifics? Anyway, having been present at the creation of the dimension that came to be known as Heaven, Gabriel knew his ins-and-outs better than every angel currently residing in the angelic homeland sans Raphael. And Raphael had spent the past forever with his head shoved so far up Michael's ass that Gabriel would bet his very wings that his brother had forgotten all about the oldest personal Heaven in existence.
Of course, the sad truth of it was that no angel remembered where poor, little Hevel was. Or Abel, as many came to call him. There simply wasn't any need to remember where he was. Back in the day, all that the angels were supposed to pay attention to were the living humans. The first death, though unsettling and, well, a first, hadn't been nearly as important as the mayhem Qayin - Cain - would go on to inflict. And with Lucifer pulling the strings... Well, everyone's attention had been on Earth, not the unstable pocket of space that had spawned off the Axis Mundi.
Yet, Gabriel remembered. He remembered because he was there.
He was the one that found Hevel. He'd known Lucifer was up to something. He'd watched with a careful eye after he'd heard his brother conversing with the youngest son of Adam. He'd feared for the well-being of Hevel. He just hadn't...
Hevel'd said no. He'd denied Lucifer at every turn. He'd been so vehement against listening to anything Lucifer said that Gabriel was truly surprised that Lucifer hadn't made a strike against the boy. Instead, Lucifer stopped. Gabriel had checked. Multiple times! He'd focused his attention on Hevel or his thoughts, and, for days, all he could pick up was Hevel's relief. Lucifer had moved on.
So, when he tuned in that last time and got nothing, Gabriel hadn't known what to think. He didn't think. He got silence from Hevel, and that was something that had never, not even when the humans slept, happened before. The fear that sparked in him was a brand all of its own.
He didn't have a Vessel back then. He crashed down onto the Earth, near the weak feeling of Hevel, in his true form. It took him a few seconds to shift himself, to shrink down into a size more suitable for a human to process, and to shake off the disorientation that caused him. Everything looked different, bigger, than what he was used to.
His efforts to accommodate his self-appointed charge were for nothing. Scouting the fields, Gabriel soon discovered why Hevel seemed so faint. Why he was silent.
Gabriel paused mid-step when he spotted the boy's prone body in the tall grass a few yards away. His gaze flicked to the puddle of blood under him.
Once again, Gabriel didn't know what to think. All he was aware of was what he was seeing, and the odd sensation of being chilled. As if he had human skin and been blasted by Lucifer's power. He hadn't felt that way before. He didn't like it.
His body knew what it was doing before he did. Gabriel slowly approached Hevel, ultimately dropping to his knees beside him. He made the mistake of gingerly turning him over.
Revulsion. That was what he felt as he immediately spotted the slit throat of Hevel. Then, as he tried to draw Hevel closer to him, into his arms, Gabriel was assaulted by the images of what had happened.
They were echoes. Memories. Qayin. Qayin had led him out here. Wanted to show him something. Waited for Hevel to turn around after having called his name. Hevel saw him move, too quickly, and so he jerked back in surprise. Didn't make it far enough. Something sliced across his neck. Pain. Gurgling on blood. Couldn't breathe. Fell. Wanted to crawl away but was in shock.
And a bone. A bone in his brother's hand that dripped with his own blood. Equally hard and regretful eyes glaring down at him.
"Gavri'el," a calm, liquid voice had called to him.
The memories vanished. Gabriel was momentarily caught off guard, unaware that he'd crouched over Hevel during the onslaught of lingering thoughts. When he pulled his gaze away from Hevel, he saw someone he hadn't expected to see.
Maveth. Death. Gabriel understood now. Sort of. Death had always been around, skirting around the edges. The Archangels paid no heed to him, though Gabriel had often spotted God talking to him in the distance. Gabriel hadn't a clue where the guy'd come from. Dad hadn't made him. Yet, there he was. Always dark and...silent.
"Qayin," Gabriel muttered, looking away from the strange being. "He - "
"Yes, I know. Brutal, wasn't it? He doesn't have the same...finesse with sacrifice that his brother had. If only Hevel hadn't moved away when he did. His death would have been much faster, and much less painful."
Gabriel snarled, four wings rising on his back. Qayin shouldn't have done what he did. Hevel was innocent! Lucifer had no sway over him. Killing him - !
"What's done is done, Gavri'el," Death interrupted firmly. "Hand Hevel over to me."
The demanding tone Death gave him only caused Gabriel to glare at him in anger and defiance.
Back then, Death and death were two different things. Creatures died all the time. Death was never called to reap them before. In fact, Gabriel had never experienced a reaping at all. Angels weren't killed. They were captured, punished. Slaughter had yet to become a thing.
Ignorant to the being he was dealing with and fueled by emotion, Gabriel growled out, "No."
Raphael might've been the Healer, but every angel knew the basics of the art. He'd heal Hevel. He'd undo what Qayin had done, and then he'd chase the vile human down. Only Adam and Eve had seen the wrath of angels. Gabriel would make sure their son did as well.
Yet, when he put his hand to Hevel's bloodied throat, only the skin knitted itself back together. The blood was whisked away, but the damage seemed to be permanent. Gabriel furrowed his brow in confusion, trying again to breathe life back into Hevel.
"Ah, yes," Death purred. "The First Blade is a wicked thing, isn't she?"
"It's the jawbone of an ass!" Gabriel bit, trying a third time, in vain, to resurrect the human in his arms.
"Not anymore. That bone has become a Blade, and it's just as cursed as its master. You won't be saving this one, child. You might as well stop trying."
Gabriel pulled his hand away from Hevel's chest.
He didn't understand. How could this happen? How could one brother kill the other one? Just... Just because he thought he was doing the right thing?
He should've done something. He should've focused more on Lucifer, sussed out why he'd stopped pestering Hevel. Maybe, then, he would've figured out Lucifer'd shifted gears to Qayin.
Lucifer couldn't win Hevel over, so he'd had him killed. For whatever purpose, he'd turned one brother against the other.
The sorrowful gaze Gabriel turned up towards Death caused the older being to roll his eyes and sigh.
"Move. I'll show you what I mean to do, if it'll stop those looks of yours."
Gabriel didn't move. Not really. He leaned, but that was all he did. He wasn't going to let go of Hevel or step away. He was an Archangel, after all. He was supposed to help protect the humans...even if he'd failed this one. And kinda wanted to kill the other.
Okay, so he was a sentimental sap holding on to the memory of the boy. Big deal! Being afraid of emotions was his brothers' thing, not his.
Death gently placed his spread, pale fingertips on Hevel's chest, and out came his soul. Gabriel knew what a soul was, of course. They were to humans what Grace was to angels. Smaller, less powerful, different in so many ways, and yet just as important. He'd just never seen one separated from its body before.
"This is Hevel," Death explained, holding the orb of light close to Gabriel's face. "Not the corpse you keep clinging to."
"I know that."
"And, yet, you haven't released his body."
Gabriel glowered at Death. Death ignored the blatant disrespect. Instead, he stood and stretched his wings - dark, wispy things not unlike the dust found in odd corners of the Universe - and looked down at Gabriel in expectation.
"To Heaven. Naturally. To bare witness to one of God's little plans."
Well, of course, at the mention of his Dad being up to something, Gabriel took off after the guy. He trailed after Death's energy, twisting and turning through space, to land somewhere on the Axis Mundi.
Back then, the Axis Mundi was akin to a stray string of energy curling off the Garden and Throne Room. None of the Archangels had seen it as important. So, when Gabriel set his metaphysical foot on it, he was beyond confused as to why they were there.
"Why're we here?"
"Still have the impatience of a child, I see," Death drolled. "Watch. Preferably without commentary, if you can manage."
Gabriel's wings rose, yet again, in irritation at Death's flippant commands towards him. Who'd this old man think he was? He wasn't his Old Man, so -
Gabriel's internal rant ground to a halt when he saw Death release Hevel's soul. Gabriel jerked in alarm. Nothingness existed outside the areas his Dad had created within Heaven. A lone human soul could easily get lost in such a place. However, when he tried to chase after Hevel, Death stopped him with a firm grip on his shoulder. A very cold grip, colder even than Lucifer, that made him stop in his tracks.
Left to do nothing but watch, Gabriel stared in awe as the small orb of light created a trail from the Axis Mundi. The energy stretched out towards Hevel, reaching out like an odd tentacle of power.
Death let go of his shoulder and walked past him, following unhurriedly after Hevel. Not wanting to be left behind, and beyond curious, Gabriel stepped after him.
Eventually, Hevel stopped. The soul waited. Death and Gabriel stopped as well. Once the energy stream of the Axis Mundi caught up with Hevel, as if to cradle him, Gabriel found out what the big deal was.
A surge of power burst forth at the connection. An arid place formed around them in an instant. For a second, Gabriel truly thought he'd been thrown back to Earth. They were in Hevel's old fields, where he'd let his flock graze and keep an ever watchful eye on them. When he wasn't snoozing under his favorite tree, anyway.
Sadly, it was also where he'd been murdered.
"Wha?" Gabriel asked, all of his senses snapping out to determine where he was.
He was still in Heaven, he realized. He could feel the energies of his home. Yet, everything looked like Earth, and it felt like Hevel.
"Elegantly put," Death teased.
Gabriel huffed and glared at him. "You mind explaining what I'm seeing, since you're obviously jumping at the chance?"
Death smiled, a very creepy look for him.
"I don't think I need to. You already know where we are and where we're not. I'm more than positive that you can figure out the answer to this riddle all by yourself."
Without warning or further word, Death was gone. Gabriel would never willingly admit that he may have cried out in surprise at having been left behind...somewhere. He, also, wouldn't willingly admit that it took him minutes to figure out what had happened.
It was Hevel's missing soul - his orb of light nowhere to be seen - that was the first clue. The feel of him everywhere was the second. The memory of memories rushing through his head upon touching Hevel's body, still containing his soul...
Memories. The soul held memories, too, not just the gray matter in human skulls. Souls were different than Grace in that regard, then. And the fields he was in? Those were just echoes. Something Hevel remembered being projected around him. But for what? Why create this elaborate illusion and connect it to Heaven?
A twig snapped somewhere nearby, drawing Gabriel's attention.
He'd forgotten his size. Hevel, appearing as his old self, looked remarkably tiny from his vantage point. Still, Gabriel could easily make out the startled look on the boy's face. The livestock behind him didn't seem to notice Gabriel, but Hevel did. He didn't appear to like what he was seeing.
'Course, that was understandable. The last Archangel Hevel'd had run-ins with turned out to be a colossal dickbag. Gabriel didn't feel too insulted by automatically being perceived as an ill omen. Plus, these were memories. He had no place here.
Fearing the repercussions of breaking the mirage that was Hevel's little slice of Heaven, Gabriel fled without a word. It took him a second to find the string of energy that would lead him back to the Axis Mundi, so well hidden by the overwhelming atmosphere of Hevel, but he found it. Landing on the newly created road, Gabriel looked back to observe the outward appearance of Hevel's Heaven.
A door. How remarkably unoriginal.
"Figured it out?" Death's taunting voice inquired.
Gabriel turned to spot the dreary being pleasantly standing on the Axis Mundi, as if he owned the place. In his hands was a scythe that he used to boredly lean upon. Gabriel didn't know its purpose, but the energy he was reading from it wasn't unlike Death's. Immediately, he didn't like it.
"To save you any questions, it's a very important tool I will use to reap human souls."
"And take them here," Gabriel followed up. "Why? I get they're important, but... Dad kicked them out of Paradise. Why bring them back in?"
"Because your brother likes poking things he has no business poking," Death replied easily. "God wants as few souls in Lucifer's reach as possible. He doesn't like His creations being indecorously corrupted. Among other things. Reasons you're not allowed to know."
"Oh, but you are."
"Petulance will get you nowhere, Gavri'el." Death tilted his head lazily. "I have been given a job to do, and I will do it. For your sake: Don't try to interfere again. Even you cannot escape my touch."
With a flap of dark wings, Death was gone.
Gabriel shuddered at the sudden absence of the other's power. He still didn't get Death. He didn't get why Dad hung out with him so much, or why so much respect was put on the being.
He'd come to learn, in time.
After the formation of Hevel's Heaven, Gabriel stayed away from it. He didn't see anything wrong with it. Unlike the overheard whispers of his brothers, Gabriel didn't shun the boy for having spoken with Lucifer. It was just... He remembered that deer in the headlights stare he'd been given. He remembered what his brother had caused.
He often wondered if Hevel would hold being an Archangel against him. If he'd know, deep down, that Gabriel had failed him.
Over time, rumors began to circulate amongst the younger angels that had been created. Tales, really, of Hevel's peculariaty.
He didn't speak. They hypothesized that he couldn't speak. Death hadn't been wrong: The First Blade was a nasty piece of work. The scar Qayin had left on his brother ran deep. It showed on his soul. The curse kept many away because it unnerved them. Humans weren't the only creatures that were superstitious, turned out.
Add a million upon a million souls spawning their own personal playpens in the fabric of Heaven, and...
Well, when Gabriel thought of a place to hide from the all-seeing eyes of his kin, he remembered Hevel. Heaven was the safest place he could think of, and Hevel's Heaven would be so far removed from anyone's mind that he doubted he'd ever be found there.
Off he went, leaving the Earth for the first time in a long time, to return home. Insert annoying prodigal son cliché here.
However, when he landed on the Axis Mundi and faced that door he'd seen forever ago, he noticed something wasn't quite right. The energy connecting Hevel's pocket of space to the rest of Heaven was frayed, like an exposed wire. Gabriel frowned at it.
It wasn't the age of Hevel's soul that was the problem. Other souls that had been within Heaven for nearly the same amount of time appeared to have a strong connection. What, then, was wrong with Hevel's?
Gabriel didn't know, yet, but he was damn determined to find out. A small part of his mind tried to convince him that he needed to know because: What was the danger of hiding in a faulty Heaven? A bigger part merrily informed him that he was still a sentimental sap who needed to know if Hevel was safe or not.
He'd been through enough. Last thing the boy needed was to be jettisoned out into space because someone forgot to use a little electrical tape. Tether him back down, for Pete's sake! Where had the other angels been? Why was this problem not seen to earlier? Okay, yeah, he knew why. That didn't make him any less upset.
Stepping into Hevel's Heaven, Gabriel was met with the same landscape he remembered from the first - and what used to be the only - time he'd been here. Fields. Arid heat. Bleeting livestock grazing as if they hadn't a care in the world. And they didn't. They weren't real. Eh, technicalities again.
What Gabriel didn't see was Hevel. He spent a good few seconds panicking over the idea that the boy's soul had...left. Vanished. Burnt out. Something! Hell, anything was game at that point in his life. He'd died and been resurrected by an absentee Father, after all. The Apocalypse had been averted. Hevel poofing wasn't that far-fetched of an idea.
Reaching out with his senses hardly helped him locate Hevel. Annoying thing about Heaven was, when in one of the soul's spaces, the whole damn place felt like the soul. As if, 'Oh, you wanna know where Hevel is? You're in him. Good luck finding him in him.'
He did find him, which sent shockwave of relief all the way through to his Grace. Following that small blip of spiking energy, Gabriel came upon Hevel in a certain spot in the fields.
Hevel sat with his knees drawn up to his forehead, his arms wrapped around his legs in such a way that Gabriel was sure the boy was hiding from something. It made sense, considering Hevel was sitting where he'd been murdered.
Gabriel grew apprehensive again. See, the thing about Heaven was that souls were supposed to be so elated by their happy memories that they forgot all the crap they'd gone through in life. Especially those that had been through violent deaths. Yet, here Hevel was, forced to constantly see the place he'd been led to be slaughtered. Gabriel would bet that a lot of Hevel's memories included, by default, happy moments with Qayin, too.
Maybe Hevel's Heaven was separating from the Axis Mundi because his soul was far from at rest. No way it could rest, given the circumstances. With as long as Hevel had been isolated from any contact other than his double-sided memories? It made sense.
The angels should've seen to that sooner. Michael'd made them stray too far from their original task. For once, Gabriel didn't blame Dad for being disappointed. Not that he'd been much better at meeting expectations, but he was going to ignore that.
"Heya, kiddo," Gabriel greeted with a tight-lipped grin, hands shoved in his pockets as he rocked on his heels.
Hevel surprised him by not being surprised. No flinching or shrieks of panic occurred. Instead, Hevel slowly raised his head of dark, curly hair to stare lifelessly at Gabriel from the corner of his eye.
"Ah," Gabriel nodded. "Probably don't even remember who the hell I am. Guess that's understandable, considering the last time ya saw me, I was a giant being of light with four wings - "
The derisive snort from Hevel made him pause. When Hevel turned to place his head back on his knees, clearly ignoring the Archangel, Gabriel puffed up in irritation, only to cleverly mask it with a pout.
"Y'know, it's usually customary to at least greet - "
Hevel shoved himself from the tall grass, furious, and made a slashing motion across his neck.
Gabriel froze, mouth still open, as his eyes flicked down to the spot. Due to the 'wonder' of Heaven, Hevel appeared just as he had in life. On the surface. However, tweaking his vision just so allowed Gabriel to spot what Hevel was truly miming about.
So, the rumors had been true. Hevel's soul had been damaged by the First Blade. A dark, jagged mark remained, deep down. Though, it looked...faded. Gabriel couldn't quite get an accurate reading about the wound, he just knew it was there.
And now he felt like an asshole.
"Riiight. That. That thing with the other thing." Gabriel puckered his lips. "Forget I shoved my foot in my mouth, m'kay?"
Hevel was still glaring, though now his eyes were judgmentally searching Gabriel's entire form, from top to bottom.
"Look. Name's Gabriel. Er, Gavri'el. Whichever one works, I don't really care. I've been called all sortsa things. Anyhoo, I need to chillax in your Heaven for a bit - " Gabriel spread his arms to motion the area around them, " - because of reasons. Reasons along the lines of certain members of my family might want to stab me. Or crown me. Either way, not really feelin' it."
'Leave,' Hevel mouthed. His scowl made little room for argument.
"Oh, c'mon!" Gabriel whined, dropping his arms. "Did I mention my family is angels? Of the dickish variety? Cut a guy some slack, wouldja!"
Hevel was clearly thinking no.
Gabriel frowned in annoyance. Okay, so Hevel was perfectly justified in telling him to fuck off. He was this weird angel guy that had appeared out of nowhere, after Hevel'd been ignored by angels for ages, and sour feelings were just the natural result of that.
"Tell ya what," Gabriel began with a forced smile, "you let me meander around here, and I'll spruce the place up a bit! Extreme Makeover: Heaven Edition. Give you a break from all that's been troubling you. ...What you should've had from the jump."
Whether it was his shift in tone or demeanor, Gabriel wasn't sure, but Hevel's visible distaste for his presence weakened. He could see the gears turning in the boy's mind. Assess the threat, assess the situation, and determine whether or not the new guy was worth having a little faith in.
It wasn't long before Hevel gave him a tentative nod.
First order of business? Change the scenery. Hevel, by Heaven's laws, was in control of his 'happy place.' The space around them could only be changed to fit an area that Hevel had seen before in his lifetime. Needless to say, Hevel hadn't seen much of anything that hadn't been touched by Qayin's influence, which threw a wrench in Gabriel's plan.
Gabriel started by asking Hevel where he wanted to be. This led to hours of explanation of the different biomes that came to reside on Earth - this place is cold, this place is hot, this place is extremely wet for four months out of the year - as well as a brief overview of some of Gabriel's own favorite time periods - "Want to know what a car is? I can show ya."
He was well aware that he sounded like the modern idea of a genie. 'Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty-bitty living space,' echoed in his ears. But it all had a purpose: Distraction. Hevel's soul needed a break from itself, in a sense, and giving it that would benefit the both of them. Preferably, it'd strengthen the bond his Heaven had with the Axis Mundi.
Once Hevel picked the area he was most interested in learning more about, communicating his request with a few hand gestures to signify 'rain' and 'trees', Gabriel asked permission to show him. He couldn't manipulate the backbone of Hevel's Heaven, but he could zap some of his own memories of the places he'd been into the boy's mind. Hey, that counts as seeing the place, right?
Hevel grudgingly let Gabriel approach him. The way he tensed up as Gabriel brought his hand towards Hevel's forehead made Gabriel sigh.
"I don't bite," Gabriel muttered.
In seconds, Hevel had all the information Gabriel had gathered regarding the wet tropics of Earth. When he was finished, Hevel opened his eyes and looked at him in wonder. Yeah, rainforests were pretty impressive, but all Gabriel did was shrug off the attention as if to say, 'Eh, no big deal.'
Hevel then grinned so brightly that Gabriel had to reconsider his opinion.
The energy around them shifted, shimmering like a mirage, and then the two of them were surrounded by tall trees, the sounds of a multitude of animals, and the distinct smells of rotting foliage, wetness, and heat. Gabriel took in the sight with far less excitement than his charge - and when had he started to consider Hevel that? - but he was nonetheless impressed by how quickly Hevel caught on.
Immediately, Hevel turned and began to inspect his surroundings. He touched everything, flipped over large leaves he'd never truly seen before, felt of ferns, felt of the towering trees. He was in awe, in the truest sense of the word, and it was a refreshing sight for Gabriel.
What wasn't a refreshing sight was watching Hevel take off further into the forest without warning.
"Hey!" Gabriel shouted before sprinting after him. "Slow your roll!"
Hevel didn't listen. Naturally.
Gabriel had no idea where the hell the kid thought he was going, but he was determined to get there. Belatedly, after the third plant he'd slapped out of the way, Gabriel realized he could just fly to stop Hevel.
However, that wouldn't be fun.
Hevel wasn't used to the sort of terrain he was running at breakneck speeds through. It was only a matter of time before he wound up on his ass, or face, and Gabriel was just immature enough to want a front row seat to the second son of Adam flipping ass over elbows onto the ground.
Soon enough, Hevel flailed and dropped out of sight. Taking heed to not follow in his footsteps, Gabriel slammed on the brakes a foot away from a drop-off. It was a small drop-off, couldn't even be called a cliff, but it served its purpose. Luckily for Hevel, it also happened to lead into a comfortably deep stream.
Gabriel crossed his arms and smirked down at the sputtering Hevel as he smacked at the water, still disoriented from his fall.
"Gotta say, Hevel," Gabriel teased, "the drowned rat look looks great on - "
He stopped abruptly to jerk his head out of the way of a flying pebble. He frowned.
"C'mon now. I know our relationship is a rocky one, but - "
The next pebble he backhanded away as he rolled his eyes.
Hevel eventually managed to climb his way out of the stream, with Gabriel's help, and silently sassed the Archangel the entire time. Rather than be offended, Gabriel was amused. Hevel was lively, hidden under all the weight of his death, and such a trait was exactly what they both needed.
Days passed in the fake rainforest that was now Hevel's Heaven. Days spent following the kid around while he explored anything and everything. He was as curious as a kitten and just as energetic. It was almost exhausting.
Even so, when Hevel laid down to sleep, and actually fell asleep, Gabriel was confused. Souls didn't sleep. Okay, no, souls did sleep. When they were in a living, human body that needed to recharge after so many hours. But a free soul? That was new.
It worried Gabriel. He spent minutes anxiously pacing around the sleeping soul and thinking the worst. 'Oops, accidentally made him expend too much energy. Now he's gonna die on me. Again. How's that even work?'
But he didn't die. No souls fading from all of existence on that night. Or the next day. Or the next night. Hevel slept for nearly as long as he'd been bouncing around the forest, only to awaken as easily as if he'd taken a fifteen minute nap.
He gave Gabriel a bleary-eyed, questioning look after the Archangel gave a deep and overdramatic sigh. He then yawned, stretched, and continued on his journey. Whatever that journey was.
"Uh. Alright. You..." Gabriel pursed his lips and followed. "You wanna explain that little cat nap that lasted nearly two days, or?"
Hevel huffed, and Gabriel got the strong impression that Hevel didn't see anything wrong with sleeping and that his worries were ridiculous. He should've expected such a reaction, given that Hevel was a soul but didn't necessarily know how souls worked.
"Right. No. That's completely natural. Just gotta ask: D'ya normally do that?"
Hevel gestured no with mounting frustration.
"So, your soul - you - don't normally take a siesta, but you're not freaked out in the least when ya do?"
Hevel rounded on him, causing him to jerk back in surprise. He stared with wide eyes as Hevel silently ranted at him. Reading his lips, Gabriel could make out that Hevel was getting sick and tired of his questions, because he didn't know the answers. Also, why the hell did Gabriel care now, when Hevel hadn't seen hide nor hair of any celestial beings since, well, a while? They hadn't cared that he'd died, they hadn't cared that he was left to his own devices for what felt like eternity - and at that Gabriel had to snort, albeit derisively - and, surely, Gabriel didn't care about Hevel now.
"Wrong about that one, kiddo," he mumbled.
Really? Hevel questioned. Because he seemed to remember Gabriel asking for a place to hide. That's the only reason he was here, wasn't it?
Gabriel shifted uneasily at the accusation. Hevel wasn't wrong. His safety was the only reason he'd fled back to a Heaven he'd only visited once.
"Well, when you put it that way..."
Hevel glared at him, disgusted.
"Oh, don't give me that look!" Gabriel snapped. "I was busy, alright! Busy staying the hell away from Heaven. Things happened, and I couldn't very well stay here. Believe me, Hevel, I wish they hadn't left you here by yourself. That did you no favors, and that sure as hell wasn't what they were told to do, but I'm not them. I'm not!
"I could've let you stay in that fabrication of your old family farm, but I knew what it was doing to you, so I changed it. I didn't have to do that. So, why d'ya think I did, hm? Or why'd I stay pacing around, freakin' out that you were gonna kick the bucket, if I didn't give a damn!"
Gabriel flinched at his own words. Hevel didn't seem all that affected, the same disapproving frown staring him down, but Gabriel had opened a can of worms he'd have much rather stayed closed, thank you very much.
He'd been on Earth for millenia. Unlike his more heavenly siblings, Gabriel had grown accustomed to the unique flavor of emotions humans had. Oh, angels had feelings. Yet, they weren't the same.
Humans... When they got happy, it bubbled up and spilled out in the form of a smile, crinkly eyes, sometimes full-blown laughter. Angels? Their Grace shifted, sometimes their wings. Smiles still showed through their eyes, but it was muted. For angels, emotions weren't overwhelming, because duty came first. Just part of their design. Or, it had been. Stick one on the Earth for a long period of time, they learn where the differences lie.
Some even got the idea they could be human.
It never worked out for them.
Michael wouldn't allow it to.
Gabriel did what he did best when faced with his own emotions, the ones that weren't righteous fury or feigned nonchalance. He withdrew. He buried that confusing combination of worry and hurt, and he held up his hands to dismiss both them and Hevel.
He didn't need this. He couldn't handle this. Everyone he'd ever attempted to care about wound up leaving him or hurting him. Fuck, Lucifer had flat out killed him.
If Hevel hated him so much, saw him as a needy, annoying enemy, then so be it. Gabriel could take a hint.
"Fine," he said. "If I'm such a nuisance, and unwanted reminder, then I'm gone. One less bird brain darkening your doorstep." His next words were overshadowed by another's voice in his mind. "Don't say I never did anything for you."
In less than a second, Gabriel was somewhere else. He hadn't picked a destination, he'd just flown. He landed on a tree top somewhere within Hevel's Heaven, up at the top of the canopy. All he could see were trees. He sat down, then, grunting at a small limb that seemed very determined to stab him. He batted it away with a quick flap of a cloaked wing.
He'd gotten onto Hevel for being petulant, when he was just the same. He knew he was being a hypocrite, and he knew he was being unfair. Cruel, even, probably. But the pesky thing about emotions were they often overwrit logic. Plus, he was stubborn. So, Gabriel stayed where he was, sulking, and tried to tell himself that he wasn't going to move for any reason. He'd exiled himself to Earth for millenia, it shouldn't be too hard to exile himself to a tree, right?
Yes, everything was fine. Until it started raining. He'd zoned out, lost track of time after he'd eventually calmed down, but he sensed something close to a day had passed.
Why the bottom had decided to fall out, he didn't know. At first. All he knew was that he was getting drenched, thanks to Hevel's understanding that rainforests were named such for a reason. Human imagination was annoying.
Grumbling, Gabriel wrapped his wings around himself as best he could to keep the rain from soaking him through. However, what with sitting at the top of the canopy and being pelted with rain falling so hard that he was beginning to wonder if he was in a monsoon...his wings were doing jack, other than getting drenched themselves.
He growled, an intense scowl on his face, and further curled himself into a ball. Screw Hevel for deciding a rainforest was the way to go, screw himself for planting the cursed images in the boy's head, and screw the fact that he was legitimately starting to consider getting down from his perch just to get away from something as insignificant as rain. He was the Prince of Water for crying out loud!
His aggravation won out in the end, as it usually did, and, with a quick scan of the area, he flew back to the source of said aggravation. As soon as he landed, he was complaining.
"Y'know, when most people think of paradise, they picture clear skies, balmy beaches," he paused midway to motion towards Hevel, who he only then realized was crying, "and why are you doing that?"
Hevel didn't answer. Unless a sniffle as he wiped away a tear could be considered an answer. From the looks of his eyes, he'd been crying for a bit. His mood explained the rain, in any case.
Gabriel sighed, his aggravation melting into awkwardness. Because, thinking with a clear head, he was beginning to think he was the cause of Hevel's distress. He'd left the kid alone. When, in all of his long afterlife, that was all he'd ever been. Alone.
Well, now who felt like shit?
Gabriel folded his arms and looked away from Hevel.
"Right," he muttered, more to himself than anything. "Grumpy old man strikes again. What's next? Kicking kittens? Take a page from the Book and slaughter some lambs?"
Hevel finally turned his head to glance questioningly – painfully – at Gabriel. Gabriel thinned his lips at the expression.
"O-kay. Note to self: Drop the corny, possibly triggering, and distasteful jokes. Not Loki anymore." He shrugged helplessly at Hevel. "What can I say, kiddo? I'm an asshole." It took more effort than it should've for him to eek out the words, "I'm sorry."
For a moment, Hevel looked like he didn't want to believe him, and for that Gabriel couldn't blame him, and then he snorted and dropped his gaze back to the forest floor beneath his feet. The sound of the pouring rain lessened, but it didn't stop. Sorrow had crept its way back into Hevel's soul, possibly fraying the edges of his Heaven again, and Gabriel had helped to do that.
Like an ass.
Without a word, Gabriel walked the few feet it took to get to Hevel. Hevel, naturally, watched him carefully. He drew away from Gabriel, scooting along the fallen trunk he was sitting on, when Gabriel raised his hand so that he could place his fingers against Hevel's forehead. Gabriel smiled in sympathy at the gesture.
"Already told you once: I don't bite. ...Not this time."
Hevel flinched when Gabriel's fingers made contact. This time, Gabriel transferred all his knowledge about a handy little thing called sign language. When he was done, he pulled his hand away and took a few steps back. He raised his hands in mock surrender.
"There!" He chirped, watching Hevel blink rapidly as he tried to process the new information. "Now ya can show me just how much ya hate my guts, whether it be through rapid-fire hand signals or your hands 'round my throat. ...I just wouldn't go with a punch, if I were you. Trust me: It'll hurt you more than me."
Hevel appeared dazed. He looked down at his hands with that same awe he'd shown when Gabriel had gifted him with a biome he'd never seen before. When he looked up at Gabriel with hope, it almost felt like a punch to the gut. Why hadn't he thought to do that sooner?
Hevel pushed himself off the fallen tree, startling Gabriel for a change, and signed, "How did you do that?"
"Ur," Gabriel stuttered, leaning back from closeness of Hevel's face, "Angel perk. Simplified version? I'm energy, you're energy, transferred my memories as if they were information on the Net. Internet. Computers. You have no idea what that is. Okay, more simplified: Magic!"
Hevel's confused face at his ramblings morphed back into faint hope as he asked, "Can you heal me?"
He pressed his fingers against the still-dark scar across his neck. It wasn't as dark as it had been when Gabriel had first arrived, but, and Gabriel wasn't sure if his memory was playing tricks on him or not, it seemed darker than the last time he saw Hevel.
Gabriel flinched. "No can do, Hevel. Sorry. Believe me, I've tried, but... Qayin's curse is somethin' else."
The hope faded. Hevel backed away and lowered his eyes. He frowned.
"When did you try?"
Gabriel snorted, "A long time ago. Back before Death took you," he raised his arms, "and brought you here." His palms slapped against his thighs as he continued, "Kinda wanted to tear his head off when he told me I couldn't. Save you, I mean. And what a tale that woulda been! ...At my funeral."
"Death?" Hevel questioned. He'd caught on to the fact Gabriel was mentioning someone, instead of just an abstract concept.
Hevel grew uncomfortable. Like Gabriel back in the good ol' days, Hevel and his family hadn't really known much about the being that had been given permission to reap their entire race. And then some. But he remembered him.
Gabriel chuckled and shrugged, "The coldest and the darkest. Well, almost. There was one, not-so-little thing I remember that had even Death beat, but. It's long gone."
Hevel didn't repress his shudder. "I didn't like it."
"Yeah, Death – dying – sucks. Been there, done that. Got the t-shirt!" He put his hands in his pockets and smirked, rocking back and forth on his heels. "Though, my death was more fire, searing pain, and exploding light. Wouldn't recommend it."
"Angels die?" Hevel asked with a curious frown.
Ah, there was that kitten attitude Gabriel remembered from before. Before he'd been a complete and utter jerk. That attitude he had no problem entertaining. It kept them both occupied, and the longer Hevel was distracted, the more the rain let up.
"Yup! We die, too. Lately...a lot of us have been dying. Killing your siblings just seems to be a big cosmic joke. Ha ha. I wasn't lying when I said my siblings might wanna shank me, y'know."
Hevel shifted uneasily, "I thought you were. Because you just wanted to hide. Or you were after something."
He looked genuinely upset that he'd thought such a thing, not just that he'd had to admit that he'd doubted Gabriel. It was kind of amusing how easily offended he was on Gabriel's behalf. Personally, Gabriel didn't care. Getting the cold shoulder felt worse than being seen like the untrustworthy monster he knew he was capable of being.
The apology startled a laugh out of Gabriel. "You really shouldn't be the one apologizing."
Hevel gave him a hesitant smile in reply.
After that, Hevel continued his almost shy prodding of Gabriel. Some questions were serious, especially those that tip-toed around what had transpired with the angels – the fighting, the killing, why no one came around anymore – and they dug too deep for Gabriel's liking. It was those questions that he shrugged off with strict warning. Not enough to scare the kid, of course, but enough to make him remember who he was dealing with. What he was dealing with.
It was simply easier for Gabriel to say, 'Hey, back off, I'm an Archangel,' than it was to admit, 'Hey, back off, I have sensitive feelings.' Let Hevel figure that out and, well... Anything he said, or did, could be used against him.
However, more often than not, the questions Hevel asked were trivial ones. Why did Gabriel look human? Oh, he was using a thing called a 'vessel.' What's that? Oh, well that's...weird. Why was his skin so white?
At that question, Gabriel had to laugh. A Mean Girls quote danced on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't say it. Not only would Hevel not understand the reference, but the joke would lose all humor if he had to explain. No, he just settled for droning on about the science behind skin tones.
Hevel soaked up everything Gabriel taught him. Even as the boy wandered through the rainforest and occupied himself with discovery, soon moving on to crafting crude tools from whatever he could find, he never stopped trying to learn from the Archangel that now shadowed him.
Weeks passed before Gabriel belatedly realized what was happening. Hevel wasn't merely curious. He was trying to experience everything he never got to. He was trying to live through what Gabriel told him. After that revelation, Hevel's eagerness to learn was tinged with a sadness, a regret, that Gabriel had long tried to convince himself he didn't have.
"Hevel," he spoke up one day, distracting Hevel from his intense focus that was aimed at the wood he was carving. "Why d'ya keep runnin' around this forest like ya do? I mean, I get the curiosity. Love it, in fact. But...how's the new not worn off for ya already? A tree's a tree is a tree. I've seen the same fern species a thousand times already. Ya sure you don't wanna change of scenery? Because I can indulge."
Hevel shook his head, put down his makeshift knife and stick, and signed, "I want to know what Eden was like."
Unfortunately, he did not miss Gabriel's sharp intake of air. He frowned.
Gabriel chuckled nervously. He didn't want to have to pop the kid's bubble, but Hevel had asked. Why lead him on? Wouldn't that make him a bigger jerk than he already was?
"Um." Gabriel took a deep breath and held up a finger, "This? This rainforest? It's not Eden, Hevel. It's nothing like Eden."
Oh, and there's the crestfallen look. Hevel looked like the spitting image of a child who'd been told there was no such thing as Santa Claus. Only worse. Because he'd just been told that he wasn't truly living somewhere his parents – hell, everyone – considered Paradise. He wasn't any closer to his familial roots, after all. Ouch.
Gabriel sighed and shifted on his rock to better face Hevel. He clasped his hands in front of him, looking all the part of the bearer of bad news.
"Lemme guess? Ya heard about giant, bountiful forests and thought, 'Oh, that's gotta be Eden!', right? Well, Eden wasn't a rainforest. Eden was... It was a forest. Meadows. Hills. It shifted just as easily as water to fit whatever needs your race had at the time. And they hadn't really needed much."
Gabriel paused. Yep, those were tears forming in Hevel's eyes. He was only making things worse for the boy. Open mouth, insert foot. Gabriel's whole body slumped.
"C'mon, kid, don't do that. If I'd known Eden was what you were aiming for, I woulda... Look, I can shift the scenery again, if ya want? You want Eden? I can give ya Eden. Right here, right now."
"It's not the same!" Hevel bit, his signing forceful. His chest heaved with his effort to keep his breathing even, denying the emotion threatening to pour out of him.
Gabriel gave a quick, lifeless smile, "No. No, it's not."
They sat in silence for a few seconds after that. Hevel's hands were shaking. He glared down at the carving he was making, something Gabriel couldn't make out yet. He was trying so hard to keep control over himself, and Gabriel knew he was fighting a losing battle. So, Gabriel pushed himself off his rock and walked away. He'd give Hevel his space. Unlike the last time he fled, however, he'd stay close enough to keep an eye out on the kid.
He wasn't looking forward to another torrential downpour.
Not long after he left, he got one anyway.
When the rain finally stopped, Gabriel emerged from his hiding spot. He went back to where he'd left Hevel, and he wasn't so surprised to find Hevel still there. He was, however, surprised to find Hevel sleeping. Again.
Unlike the last time he found him sleeping, Gabriel didn't panic. He was going on good faith that, not too many days later, Hevel would pop back awake. They'd both probably feel like shit, Hevel more than him and rightfully so, but hopefully they'd pick up where they left off on their grand adventures through not-Eden.
Feeling only a little bit awkward about it, Gabriel wiggled his way in-between Hevel and a tree root. He stretched out on the ground, head propped up against the tree, ankles crossed, and propped his hands on his chest.
"So!" He chirped to the unconscious body beside him. "Whadda you wanna do?"
Naturally, he received no answer. Nope, he was left with his thoughts and the boring environment around him. And his thoughts went from how bored he was with the wet greenness around him to the power of Heaven that once thrummed through Eden, molding it to its whim. From Eden, he jumped to Hevel's expectations, Hevel's dejected reality, Hevel's tragedy. Hevel wanted a connection to his family that had nothing to do with the one that wound up being his undoing. He wanted the Paradise his family had been forbidden from ever seeing again. He wanted a home. Someplace he felt safe and loved, even if alone.
Gabriel understood that feeling. He thought he'd found it, once, only for it to forsake him. Hell, maybe he deserved it.
Didn't mean it didn't hurt.
Now, here he was, back in his first home. Supposedly, his true home. Alone, but not quite feeling safe or loved. Sure, he was pretty positive Hevel liked him, to some extent, but, eh. He doubted Hevel would mourn him if...
If Raphael ever found him and took a page out of the Archangelic Handbook when it came to dealing with traitorous brothers.
Raphael. He was the youngest out of all of them, yet, to Gabriel, he'd always seemed so old. He was no-nonsense, that's what it was. Kind, once upon a time, but jokes were just not his thing. Then Michael hadgotten ahold of him. Raphael was to Michael what Gabriel was to Lucifer, and, boy, did it show. His kindness had eventually morphed into apathy. Gabriel had left shortly after that.
Gabriel wondered what Raphael was up to, now that Michael was locked away in the Cage with their other big bro. He hadn't really given it much thought before, too worried about his own hide, yet now the question nagged at him. If Gabriel wasn't there to fill the power vacuum left by Michael's damnation, then Raphael was left to lead Heaven on his own.
Not a fun revelation.
Gabriel took a solid minute to come to the conclusion that he should check in. He was in Heaven, no one knew where he was – or they would've hassled him by now – and it would probably be in his best interest to figure out just what the hell was going on in his backyard. Even if he sorely did not want to tap back into the frequency of angel chatter. He'd kept it off for so long when he was back on Earth.
Because, that way, it was easier to convince himself that Heaven's problems weren't his.
That way, it was easier not to storm the Gates of Heaven and rip Michael off their Father's Throne for the bullshit he was pulling.
Gradually, as if slowly twisting the knob of a faucet, Gabriel focused in on the energy of angelic voices. Even though he'd forced so many of them out of his head, hearing the messages fly back and forth again didn't shock his system at all.
The Host was chaotic. Certain spots were suspiciously quiet, and others were practically screaming. Screaming orders. Fight patterns, demands, calls to retreat. The active spots within Heaven, even if faint for their distance, were sounds of war. Not petty and not-so-petty disagreements, but all out war. His brow furrowed, eyes unfocused, as he considered what he heard. Why were angels fighting in Heaven? Soon, his question became: Why are they fighting each other?
Oh, sure, he and his brothers – the Archangels – often got into major spats just before he left Heaven in favor of Earth. The other angels had been scared to even approach them to talk about business. But the three of them, after Lucifer, never drew weapons on each other. They certainly hadn't killed each other. And, yeah, he might've caught wind of a pesky, little Zachariah calling for the deaths of those who opposed Michael's plans, but that wasn't war. Mass murder, most definitely, but not an organized party against the other. Politics fueled Zachariah, but not his victims.
However, as Gabriel listened, soon came the names.
Gabriel inhaled slowly as he pieced it together.
Castiel was the angel that had been following the Winchesters around.
Gabriel had known him before that, of course. Gabriel'd run into the tike here and there, when he was still on Heaven's payroll. Taught him a few pointers about how to keep his nose out of people's business. Well, more like he'd taught him how to make it look like he was keeping his nose out of people's business. He'd actually taught the young angel how to snoop and be a suspicious little twerp.
By then, curiosity was rapidly being snuffed out by Michael's idea of 'angelic unity.' Gabriel had hated it, and Castiel... Something was different about him. Gabriel had sensed it the moment he'd laid eyes on him. Castiel was curious by nature, so why not throw a dog a bone?
The Castiel he came across back on Earth wasn't the brother he remembered. Still had the same ol' intensity, that wasn't the problem. It was how he looked that was different. No, not the ad salesman from Illinois. That special something that had caused Gabriel to tilt his head in question long ago. It'd changed. Looked scarred. As if someone had gone digging at it when they had no right to.
He knew that's what had happened.
Scarred though it were, Castiel's spark persisted, and he had used it to glare so heatedly at Gabriel back in that warehouse that Gabriel's resolve had cracked further than he had wanted it to. It wasn't Dean's ranting that had swayed Gabriel, in the end. It was Castiel's judgment. The little angel who had forsaken everything that he had been taught was right, so that he could stick up for what was truly right...thought Gabriel wasn't up to snuff.
He hadn't been wrong.
Combine that with Sam's knack for puppy dog looks and pretty solid logic, and, well, Gabriel reluctantly started to see that silver lining he thought had disappeared the moment the Cage had popped open.
Last time Gabriel had checked, Castiel was MIA. Pulled some hairbrained maneuver by carving an angel banishing sigil into his chest and flung himself who-knew-where. Such news was the only reason he started keeping a closer eye on the Winchesters. Didn't have their guardian angel on hand, might as well pick up the slack. He hadn't quite expected the bumbling brothers to trip right into the hands of Kali and the rest of the god squad. What a fun night that had been.
Hearing word that Castiel was re-angelfied should've been heartening. Except for that pesky business about fighting Raphael.
The only reason Castiel would do something so foolish as to fight someone many times his size was if he were still trying to combat Heaven's influence on Earth's destiny. The only reason Raphael would do something so childish as to fight with someone he considered low on the totem pole of power was if said someone was in his way.
Meaning: Raphael was still trying to do the whole Apocalypse thing. Because that's exactly what Michael would want him to do.
Gabriel placed his face in his hands and groaned. The groan quickly became a guttural roar of aggravation. When he dropped them back to his chest, he glanced over at Hevel. Hevel hadn't even moved.
Well, at least Gabriel didn't have to worry about waking him up.
Despite his mounting frustration, Gabriel continued to eavesdrop on the angels. He couldn't figure out who was winning the war. Hell, he could hardly figure out who was winning which battles.
He frowned. Listening to the descriptions, the places the angels were being ordered to go to or to retreat from, Gabriel realized something that, frankly, terrified him.
They weren't just fighting in Heaven, they were fighting in Heavens. The humans' pockets of space, meant to be places of peace and neutral ground, were being used as battlefields. He was in a place deemed appropriate for a battlefield. Sure, Hevel's Heaven was long forgotten, so he'd been placated with the idea that no one would search for him there, but if some wayward angels bulldozed through the area with no regard as to where the hell they were going...
"Hevel," Gabriel commanded, his voice cracking once. He reached over and shook the boy's shoulder, "Hevel, wake up. We gotta go. Right now. Like, hoo boy, do we gotta go."
Hevel scrunched his face up, batted at Gabriel's hand, and miraculously remained sleeping.
"You are long past your beauty sleep!" Gabriel hissed, shaking harder.
Hevel didn't even flinch.
With an angry huff, Gabriel shoved himself off the ground. He turned and bent down to pick up Hevel, unconscious state be damned, and go...where?
Where was he going to go? Heaven was Heaven. Fighting was everywhere. No place was sacred to the flying asswipes these days!
Except, maybe, Eden.
Oh, if he went there, he was playing with fire and he knew it. He hadn't set foot in the Garden in a very, very long time. Not long after the so-called Fall of Man. He couldn't face it. Back then, he'd felt guilty by association. Still did, to some extent.
Fuck it, he concluded. He was an Archangel. For the most part, he could do whatever the hell he wanted. He was going to save his ass, and he was taking Hevel with him. Kid wanted to see his ol' family estate, right? Why not give him what he wanted?
Spreading his golden wings wide, Gabriel gathered the energies of Heaven around him and flew. He flew with all the speed granted him quite literally by the Grace of God, and he punched a hole through the fabric of Hevel's Heaven. Energy clung onto his wings, desperately trying to drag him back, to drag Hevel back, and he ignored it.
A quick correction in his course set his path along the Axis Mundi. He followed it the seemingly short distance to the Gates.
No flaming sword barred him entry. Contrary to what was written in many books across the globe, the flaming weapon of Holy Fire didn't protect Eden in general, only the Tree of Life. And with the cherubim that were once stationed at the Gates having been found guilty of treason millenia ago... Well, Gabriel strode right on in like he owned the place. Considering he still held the title of Governor of Eden, he liked to think he did. A little. Maybe, like, a few metaphysical acres here and there. Not enough for Pops to accuse him of being arrogant, or anything, of course.
Hevel didn't so much as twitch in his arms as he pulled his wings back and watched as Eden morphed to fit how it had once looked. The way Gabriel remembered it from before Lucifer had corrupted it. A trail through some deciduous trees formed before him, allowing him passage through the Garden. If Gabriel wanted to, he could follow it all the way to the clearing that led to the Trees.
He made it a few steps forward before he noticed a slight shift in the plants around him. He paused mid-step, frowning down at a red rose bush that had elected to spontaneously grow beside him. Other colorful flowers soon joined, lining the pathway, while the grasses were overwhelmed and pushed aside. His wings tensed as he felt the angel responsible for the redecorating.
Gabriel glared over his shoulder at the angel behind him. He recognized him on sight. Joshua. The last he'd heard, the old angel had been put in charge of 'gardening' the Garden. Like Eden needed such a thing. No, Joshua had simply been ordered to clean up Lucifer's mess, as best he could. A waste of time, in Gabriel's opinion. Like putting a Band-aid on a bullet hole.
Still, even knowing who stood behind him didn't put Gabriel's mind at ease, and his feathers stayed puffed.
"What do you want?" Gabriel growled, voice laced with a warning ounce of power.
Joshua's brow rose at the hidden threat, but he didn't seem affected by it. He brought his hands in front of him, lacing his fingers together, and observed Gabriel stoicly.
"Merely to know what you are thinking by bringing a child forbidden to ever enter the Garden...directly into the Garden," he replied.
Gabriel scoffed. With a dark glint in his eyes, he turned to fully face Joshua. The angel remained unaffected by him.
"Yeah, well. Dad's gone. Who's gonna stop me?"
Joshua stared hard at him, before he tilted his head and said, "You know for a fact God isn't gone."
"True, but I don't see him high-tellin' it back here to give me a good spankin', so... What's your point? A chiding? That I should give a damn about breaking rules that don't matter anymore? Script's been torn up, Joshy-poo. Apocalypse, the grand Plan, ended with a whimper and not a bang. Who's to say Dad gives a shit if I bring a tortured soul somewhere it can finally rest?"
"You play the savior, Gabriel, but you did not come here merely for the boy's benefit."
At that accusation, Gabriel rolled his eyes and shook his head. Sure, Joshua was right. Gabriel would happily admit it. Because the fact of the matter was he could have easily left Hevel behind to rot, just as every angel had done before, himself included. But he hadn't. Gabriel didn't believe in such black-and-white thinking that he couldn't see that he could be a coward and a savior all at the same time. In fact, he was kinda known for it.
Why else would he finally stand up to Lucifer, to save the knuckleheads he needed to save the world, knowing full well he couldn't deliver a killing blow?
"I also didn't come here to get a lecture from a gardener. Eden is my territory."
"Eden is neutral territory, which is the exact reason you came here to escape from your feuding brothers. Tell me, Gabriel: When was the last time you heard God?"
Gabriel bristled at the unexpected question. His glare would've made most angels prostrate themselves at his feet, yet here Joshua stood with confidence, as if he would be spared the unadulterated wrath of an Archangel.
"He talks to me still," Joshua continued, an admission that cut Gabriel. "It is an unfortunate thing that His Messenger should be deafened to the sounds of His voice while another serves in his stead. Why do you think He hasn't revealed Himself to you, Gabriel? Might it have something to do with your chosen disobedience and abandonment of your post?"
"Shut up," Gabriel hissed dangerously.
"The truth hurts, as it often does. You know that all too well. Or, you would, had you kept the Horn, instead of burying it in the mud like you tried to do your past."
The ground around them shook with the rage and energy building within Gabriel.
He'd smite him. Chosen little pet of God or not, he'd smite him from existence. He knew nothing! Nothing of the weight that had been on Gabriel's shoulders since the Beginning. The hell Gabriel had crawled through just to avoid being used as a tool to his brothers' wars. How he'd corrupted himself, willingly, just to avoid more bloodshed within his family...and failed. How dare Joshua think he could fill his Father's shoes and offer him a lesson. Him!
"By all means, Gabriel," Joshua spoke over the rising volume of earth, "take refuge within the Garden with the second son of Man, but do not go against the Law that was placed on it. As much as you think it pointless, God still holds a purpose for this place, and He will not like it if it's kept from that purpose."
Joshua was gone with a sound of wingbeats. He was still in Eden, somewhere, but Gabriel didn't care to sense him out. The ground's tremors grew fainter until they stopped. Gabriel glared at the space the angel had once occupied.
"Arrogant dick," Gabriel seethed. "Gets onto me for hiding, as if he isn't doing the same thing."
His glare lessened when he glanced down at the still snoozing Hevel in his arms. Kid could sleep through a hurricane, it seemed. His soul must have been truly exhausted, and all because Gabriel had ripped his happy fantasy away from him by telling the truth. Gabriel tried to ignore Joshua's repeating words in the back of his mind.
"You're gonna really shit bricks when you wake up, kiddo. Mazel tov and all that jazz."
With a look over his shoulder, Gabriel decided against the direction he'd originally headed. The Trees were forbidden. Period. Though he loathed to admit it, Joshua's words had struck more than one chord with him. The last thing he needed was a curious, little Adamlet wiggling through old-placed wards to take a bite out of something he shouldn't. Hevel would mean no harm by it, but neither had his parents.
Gabriel growled in annoyance and walked towards the outer part of Eden.
For whatever reason, this time Hevel slept for only a couple of hours. Just long enough for Gabriel to cool down from his argument with Joshua. Long enough for his thoughts to repeat the same dreary news of Castiel and Raphael warring it up in Heaven. When Hevel opened his eyes to look up at Gabriel, who was sitting on a conjured stump with his chin in his hand, Gabriel offered a sad attempt at a smile.
Hevel frowned at the obvious lack of cheer from the Archangel and curiously looked about. Gabriel knew he'd noticed the slight change in scenery.
"Where are we?" He signed.
"Give ya three guesses." Gabriel held up a finger for each. "One, got a lotta plants. Known for 'em, in fact. Two, has the two most famous Trees in all of existence. Well, Yggdrasil gives 'em a run for their money, but, eh. And, three, only pest said to have wriggled its way in here was the Serpent."
The frown Hevel was giving him quickly morphed into the wide-eyed stare of shock. Then hope. Recognition. And, finally, there was that blinding, toothy grin Gabriel had grown accustomed to whenever Hevel figured something out that he liked.
"Yeah, yeah. Welcome to Eden! Population: Three. We're not gonna mention-ulk!"
Gabriel's words were cut off by an unexpected, joyous tackle from Hevel. The squawk he gave as he fell backwards off his stump was all on the instincts of his Vessel. Totally not the instincts of a powerful Archangel who, moments before, had been ready to murder someone in a flash of energy. Gabriel ignored the fact he'd created his Vessel from mostly scratch and that no human soul resided in it to sway his instincts.
He protested the bone-crushing hug he found himself in with a string of guttural noises. When the thankful kisses joined the onslaught of affection, feverishly pecking at his face, Gabriel resorted to giving off a sound not unlike a dying animal as he batted at Hevel's shoulders with his hands.
As quickly as he'd come, Hevel was off Gabriel, sprinting through trees and grass with an almost manic laugh. Gabriel, however, stayed where he was. He was glad the kid was happy, but damn. He'd forgotten how touchy-feely humans had been, before society had twisted nearly every form of affection they could show each other. He wasn't entirely sure he liked it. At least give him a warning, or something!
His grouchiness vanished quickly when he realized Hevel had run off.
He pushed himself off the ground and shouted, "Don't eat any fruit you don't know! Need a leash for the kid, I swear."
Walking quickly, Gabriel soon found Hevel. He hadn't gotten too far, and he'd luckily stayed away from the center of the Garden, but what caught Gabriel's attention was what he was doing.
He must've taken Gabriel's words to heart about Eden shifting to fit what his race needed. Trees were shifting around him, bowing and twisting before disappearing into the earth, slurped up like spaghetti by the ground. In their place grew grasses and wildflowers commonly found around Hevel's home. Wheat and goats soon followed. Hevel was still grinning at everything he made.
"Regular sorcerer's apprentice over here," Gabriel mumbled as he came to stand beside Hevel. "Slap some mouse ears on ya, a pointy, blue hat, and call you Mickey."
Hevel turned to him, grin becoming a genuine smile, and signed, "Thank you."
"Shouldn't be thanking me, kid. ...As a certain asshole pointed out, I only came here to run away from something. I'm good at that."
Hevel's smile didn't weaken.
"You could've left me behind. But you brought me with you. So: Thank you."
Gabriel's brows rose. He honestly hadn't expected Hevel to parrot what he'd told himself earlier. He hadn't expected thanks, either. He never really received such a sentiment that much anymore. It was always, 'Why don't you do more, Gabriel?' or, 'Get your head out of your ass, Gabriel.'
Okay, so the latter response he probably could obey and come out the better for it, but the first? Ouch.
"You're welcome," he eventually muttered, a little distressed at how hard it was to say the simple, two-worded acknowledgement without any hint of sarcasm or bitterness.
The smile Hevel gave him shifted slightly, a disturbingly knowing glint in his eye. As if he knew why Gabriel struggled with his words. As if he could see right through him.
Without further mention of what had transpired, Hevel turned from him to greet a curious goat. He reached out with his hand, letting the creature sniff at his palm, before scratching it under its chin. Hevel had always had a way with animals. Sadly, such a fact was probably why he'd been chosen as the family butcher.
It was as his mind wandered that Gabriel finally realized a very important something.
Hevel had laughed.
He hadn't uttered a word in ages, and especially not since Gabriel had shown up, yet he'd used those not-really-there vocal cords of his to produce the sound of happiness. How? The scar left by the First Blade had been deep. Black.
However, when Gabriel shifted his vision just a smidge, he noticed that the scar he'd seen before was nearly invisible. Only a faint, light gray speck remained, and Gabriel realized that Hevel had laughed because he was healing.
Though Gabriel was an angel, an Archangel, he'd never really hung around souls all that much. Sure, there'd been ghosts he'd come across on his travels on Earth. Many, in fact. And there'd been his little romp over at Gwyn's place. But no cavorting had taken place between him and the spiritual remains of his psuedo cousins.
He'd never heard of a soul healing after death. Not in the way Hevel's was. Not after such a curse as the First Blade. Had all the child needed been a change of scenery and some company? A distraction from his trauma? Sure, Gabriel had done those things to strengthen Hevel's Heaven, and for his own peace of mind, but he'd never expected a little kindness to go that much of a long way.
If only the angels had figured it out sooner. If only they hadn't avoided Hevel like he was a plague upon Heaven, an oddity. It burned at Gabriel that Hevel had been made to wait for...anything! Naturally, he was just as guilty as his siblings.
Oh, well. He was there now, and he was curious. Would Hevel finish healing if left in Eden? He didn't seem far to go, given the appearance of the old scar.
So, Gabriel waited. For nearly five years, he waited. He watched Hevel play in the Garden, molding various parts of it to fit what he wanted. A forest here, a meadow there, a desert. Hevel built, unnecessarily making tools to till the land and cut down trees to construct a simple-styled house. And, all the while, they chatted. Sometimes, it was about inconsequential things, questions that allowed them to better understand one another's personality. Other times, however, they delved into deeper things.
"How did you die?" Hevel asked once, setting aside the new carving he'd started, the old one left behind in his Heaven.
Gabriel chuckled, "Cut to the quick, why don'tcha?" He sighed. "...Lucifer. Lucifer, he, uh... He wanted to kill people. All people, in the long run. You already know: He doesn't really like your kind. There were some guys. Two brothers. Your descendants, actually. Well, your brothers' descendants. They got into hot water. One of them could become Lucifer's Vessel. So, I...put myself in the way of Lucifer. He didn't like that too much."
Hevel was silent a moment, the look he gave Gabriel oddly reminiscent of a certain Winchester's puppy dog eyes. Then, he looked back to his carving.
"My brother killed me, too. Only...I don't know why."
Gabriel snorted derisively, though he cringed at the sorrow coming from Hevel.
"Same reason mine killed me: He thought he had to. And he was wrong."
Despite occasionally facing the horror of his past, Hevel's scar never returned. It faded completely, unlike Gabriel's own. For that, Gabriel was glad. He marveled at the boy's progress. Took pleasure in it.
Outside Eden, Heaven fell apart.
He knew. He knew when Raphael died, felt the pang that spread across his Grace as one of the Four vanished from existence. He heard all about Castiel's hand in his brother's death, and he despised him for it. However, at the same time, he understood why. He didn't like it, but he understood. The Leviathan. The warring factions of his kin. Naomi gaining power. All of the chaos Gabriel feared and hated continued to get worse, while he hid in Paradise.
Who was he, in the grand scheme of things? According to old, human laws, he'd be the rightful heir to the Throne. Raphael gone. Michael and Lucifer trapped in the basement. Everything was on him.
Nothing should ever be on him. He wasn't capable of leading. He couldn't stop the fighting. He'd never been able to. He tried to tell himself that all he cared about was Hevel, the Garden, and even the pesky gardener whose eyes always seemed to be glaring at his back. Otherwise, he'd turn into a panicked mess.
Not even word of Metatron's capture caused him to move from his comfortable spot. What did he give a damn about that weasel? As far as Gabriel was concerned, he was just as conniving as the Archangels. It'd been Metatron that had tried to sweep the mess with Lucifer and Eden under the rug. Came up with the idea to blame someone else, just so the pristine Archangels could remain as such to the rest of the Host. Oh, the anarchy such truth could cause, he'd whined. God, unfortunately, fell for it. They all had.
Lucifer was free to fuck up the rest of Creation, with only a small slap on the wrist. His first targets? The Sons of Man.
They weren't supposed to be here. Either of them.
The smile he'd given Hevel's back turned curious when the boy finally stood up from where he'd been hunched over, working on that carving of his, and turned to face him. His expression was almost bashful, but there was a hint of pride sparkling in his eyes. Gabriel tilted his head at him.
By all means, Hevel should've finished his little pet project with that old carving long ago. He'd been working on it off and on for a few months now. However, he also had the attention span of a young child. He'd always find something else in the Garden to distract himself with. His carving was reserved only for when he was thinking, when he was calm.
Gabriel was surprised to find himself interested in what it was, and he wondered why Hevel had always dodged him whenever he tried to get a look at it recently. A mischievous sort of excitement spread through his Grace when he noticed the way Hevel still hid the small object within cupped hands. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Hevel was going to gift him the wooden figure, whatever it was.
"D'aw, kid, ya shouldn't have!" Gabriel teased, smirking at the good-natured eyeroll he received.
Hevel opened his hands, and inside rested a stylized angel with four wings and a pointed halo. It had no face, no color save for the light wood it'd been carved from, but Gabriel knew who it was meant to represent. Hevel had carved him. For whatever reason, Hevel had taken the time and effort to create something modeled after him. And here he was trying to gift it to him.
Gabriel looked up from the small figurine to stare up in slight wonder at Hevel. Hevel motioned it towards him, grin on his face, telling him to take it.
Eden shuddered, a small quake surprising the both of them. Hevel stumbled on his feet while Gabriel leapt to his.
Something was wrong. Eden didn't quake. Heaven didn't quake. Not without something truly cosmic shaking its foundations.
Gabriel's wings rose silently behind him as he scanned the area for a threat. Hevel took notice, his grip tightening on his little figurine as he edged closer to Gabriel. The loud sound of a crack rent the air, drawing Gabriel's attention towards the center of Eden. The light around them dimmed. The make believe clouds, the once bright sky, morphed into ominous darkness. It spread quickly, like ink in water.
Gabriel lowered his fearful eyes down to Hevel when he felt the tingling sensation in his wings.
Without further warning, he was wrenched backwards with a shout. His hand instinctively reached for Hevel, and Hevel reached for him, the shrill cry of, "Gavri'el!" the first word he'd uttered since his death.
But the ancient spell that had been conceived to throw Lucifer from the heavens wasn't to be denied. Gabriel Fell, Heaven dematerializing around him as he was shoved into the reality of Earth. His shout became screams as his wings ignited. His thoughts zeroed in on nothing but the all-consuming pain of his Grace on fire and the deafening sound of wind in his ears.
Instinct worked against him. He flailed through the night sky, his wings trying to right him in flight. Each subconscious flap they gave somehow made the unbearable pain even worse. He couldn't see anything but darkness and fire, all senses devoted to processing his agony. Sheer, unadulterated agony.
He hit something. Hard. At first, he'd thought it was the ground. However, as the fire on his wings extinguished, he felt himself sink. He tried to breathe and water rushed into his mouth, choking him. He couldn't drown. His injured Grace wouldn't allow him to. But that didn't mean he didn't have lungs to suffocate. Now, they burned, too, as he clawed at the water.
Gabriel panicked, until his ass hit the ground. The water wasn't deep. Not as much as he'd feared it would be. Struggling against his pain, fatigue, and the burning in his lungs, Gabriel rotated himself and used the sand as a guide to claw his way to shore. He broke the surface, sputtering and retching, vaguely aware of how cold it seemed to be above the water.
Once he was half on land, he dropped. The unpleasant sensation of sand sticking to his face and scraping his forehead was nothing compared to the throbbing of his entire body. He laid there, shaking and whimpering, and listened to the sounds of gulls and angels screaming.
Unfocused eyes caught sight of his mangled wings. Once brilliant and golden, now they were dim and bloody – holey instead of holy. His Grace didn't even try to heal the damage. It couldn't. Instead, it worked to numb the pain, deaden the nerves that sent shockwaves through him that made him grit his teeth and curl in on himself. The broken bones he'd sustained to his human body were easier to fix.
His gaze moved slightly from his wings to the sky, to the tiny streaks of light shrieking through the atmosphere. So many angels. All of them screaming. All of them Falling. All of Heaven was Falling.
And he knew why.
Only a handful of angels knew the spell that had been used on Lucifer. Limited only to God's most trusted. His Archangels...and Metatron.
Gabriel, exhausted, chuckled darkly. He buried his face in the sand and ignored the tears in his eyes. His hand clenched in rage.
"Wow, you really do know how to pick 'em, Pops," he muttered. "Lucifer. Gadreel. Metatron. Me. Are You happy now? Did we meet all of Your well-intended expectations?"
Beyond livid, his wrath gave him the strength to push himself off the ground and onto his knees.
He glared up at the sky as it continued to rain his kin and screamed, "Well! Is this what You want?!"
He spread his arms wide, "Because, if so, here it is! Heaven on Earth! Thy Will be done! All of your children suffering, souls left to fend for themselves, and a douchebag probably on his way to your Throne right now! Brilliant Plan, Dad!"
Gabriel's bottom lip trembled as those tears finally decided to eek their way out of his harrowed eyes to make their way down his cheeks. With a pained sneer, he bowed his head.
"Fuck You," he breathed. "Just...fuck You."
So much for Paradise.
A/N: When I started this fic, it was with the intention of exploring a Gabriel who spent years, through all the bad shit we saw go down, hiding in Heaven. Right up to his Fall. But I also wanted to explore the character of Abel – Hevel – because the show paints this picture of some kid who shoulda known better than to talk with Lucifer, some kid that deserved what he got, and I always found that to be total horseshit.
And here we are, fifteen-thousand words later.
For those who read my main fic - Tearing Up the Script - and are wondering why the hell I wrote this before finishing the next chapter of that: Shit happens in this fic you gotta know for that one. All part of the plan.
As always, thanks for reading, and comments/reviews are greatly appreciated. I spent a lot of time writing this and I'd like to know what y'all think. Throw the dog a bone, folks.