His first thought once he got himself back together was that maybe he'd been hanging around the 21st century for too long – once the monkeys split the atom, the whole lot of them got so skeptical, you had to practically manifest a platoon of naked babies with harps before they'd believe you, and it was simply too much trouble. But it hadn't always been that way – people used to respect power, used to bow down before the Messenger of the Lord without any more than a little lightshow and a healing or two. Maybe that would be more fun. Yeah.
His first indication that this might have been a bad move was the arrow that buried itself in his shoulder. Apparently King Utter Piss-Flagon (or something to that effect – he hadn't been listening too carefully) didn't particularly like magic, or its practitioners. The royal guards had Gabriel overwhelmed in seconds, and though he could have easily hand-waved his way out of there, he decided to stick around, morbidly curious as to what was coming next.
What came next was the royal dungeon, which was cold and smelly and slimy and really, really boring. Clearly, this had been a bad move. Even the dragon chained up in the sub-dungeon was cranky and bitchy, and anyway it only wanted to talk about Revenge and Killing the King and Destinies, and he'd really had enough of that shit.
Still, he was curious enough to stick around for the next morning, though he took the precaution of swapping places with one of the knights. The man kicked up quite a fuss on the way to the chopping block, which was entertaining enough to nearly make up for the indignity of arrest in the first place.
The part that tipped it into awesome, though, was the man's face when he looked to the royal balcony, where King Piss-Flagon stood with his young son. What had attracted Gabriel to this particular knight was that he had been taking an unhealthy interest in the prince, and it was lovely to see the man's expression when he realized that the boy he'd been harboring lascivious thoughts of couldn't have cared less what happened to him.
Which was true – after all, the kid was watching the execution of a man he didn't know from Adam, and who was so insane that he had not only done magic in the presence of the king but was gibbering so badly after a night in the dungeons that he couldn't even pronounce his own name. (Gabriel had taken the precaution of preventing Sir-who-the-hell-cares from trying to tell anyone who he really was, but hadn't cared enough to do more than muzzle him if he tried, which meant that he kept saying “You can't do this! I'm -” and looking around in surprise when his voice cut out. It was really funny to watch).
Afterwards, he thought about sticking around for a bit, playing with King Crazy, but his heart just wasn't in it. It looked like one of those deals that was gonna be way more work than it was worth, and he really just didn't care enough. He did stay long enough to get the kid on a less emotionally-destructive path (he'd had enough of adults trying to deal with their fucked up childhoods by doing really stupid things, and boy could he see 'stupid' in this kid's future), and made sure to stamp NOT ALL MAGIC IS EVIL on the kid's brain, so maybe he'd not be quite as paranoid as his dad, then got the hell out of Dodge, because this was too goody-goody for even his sweet tooth.
Years later, Prince Arthur would think fondly of Sir Pellinore and the stories he'd told, about a man who talked to animals and threw sparks from his fingertips, who grew younger as the world about him aged, and who had been unfailingly loyal to a young boy who eventually became a great king.
A few years after that, when he stumbled across his manservant reading while Gaius' pot stirred itself and Arthur's own armor was being scrubbed by floating rags, he merely sighed, chuffed his best friend across the ear, and said “Merlin, you utter clot.”
Right, so the past was a bad idea. What about the future? The future sounded good. But it would have to be the far future – he'd already seen his near future, and hadn't liked it one bit. So. Distant future, far away from Winchesters and Apocalypses and other patent idiocy.
He hummed to himself. Maybe Kasterborous. He hadn't been there in awhile, but he remembered that there'd been at least one fun guy to hang out with, and that was one more than the Milky Way had going for it. Kasterborous it was, then. He snapped his fingers, and-
-found himself floating in space. This wasn't a problem, as such, except that he'd been expecting to land on a planet. Maybe he hadn't accounted for drift. He snapped his fingers again and-
-found himself floating in space. He tried again
and each time found... nothing.
Gabriel whipped around – a hard feat to accomplish in zero gravity, but he was an Archangel, and better yet, he was awesome – to find a young man standing in the doorway of a blue box. Well, when Gabriel said young, he meant... young in human terms, usually, which meant 'good looking and below the 50% of your-lifespan mark', and while the first applied adequately, the second... didn't, but he couldn't quite put his finger on why.
Certainly he looked not much older than the Winchester twits, and prettier besides, if you went for the Edwardian-frock-coat-and-curls look, which he didn't really, but whatever. But the guy looked... weary, and lost, and really quite pathetic, actually. He swayed while Gabriel looked at him, and seemed about to fall out of the door, into whatever space this was, or had been. Gabriel stepped forward, because some habits died hard, and helping idiots was one of them, but Edwardian Frock Coat recoiled away from him, falling back into his spaceship and scuttling away from the door on his elbows, as though he were desperate to get away from Gabriel.
“I killed you. I killed you all. I did it. I had to.” He was babbling now, curling into himself as if to deny whatever he saw in Gabriel. “It was the only way. She told me to she said I had to, I said no but she said I was the only one and if I could only ever do one thing to help anyone this was it and I had to.”
He looked up then and Gabriel wanted to run away, wanted to be anywhere but here, because he knew that face, had worn it too many times to not be familiar with every bit of it, and he wanted to refuse to have anything to do with this, but he couldn't get away. He stood at the door, halfway between empty space and a sort of library, all heavy tomes and dark mahogany, while the man in front of him grieved for something Gabriel had no desire to remember.
“I'm so sorry. I killed you. I killed you all. I didn't mean to, it was the only way, I didn't want to but they kept coming and the War was going to spill over and there was nothing else I could do and I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry.”
It was too much. It was too familiar and too painful, a knife twisting in the heart Gabriel hadn't known he'd had. He didn't know who this was, or what had happened to bring them to this, and frankly, he really didn't want to know. He wanted to get the fuck out of Dodge and as far away from this as possible, but he couldn't just leave this poor bastard here, no matter what he'd done. What he thought he'd done. No, actually, Gabriel was sure that whatever he'd done had been terrible – he seemed convinced he'd killed Gabriel, anyway, though Gabriel knew perfectly well who'd done that, fuck you very much Luci. But Gabriel had been one of the first – an Archangel of Lord, His Messenger – and he'd been around the block more times than he cared to remember (though he could, vividly, and fuck you Dad for not working out selective memory until version 2.0) and he knew he was missing something.
He stepped forward again, into the blue-box-spaceship-thing (which turned out to be bigger on the inside, though he wasn't surprised – why would he be, when his angelic size was incomprehensible to most species, but his human height was below average) and Edwardian guy scrambled further back, fetching up against a set of steps leading up to some kind of console in the same dark wood as the rest of the room. He was really freaking out now, and even if he hadn't been wandering around unprotected in space, Gabriel would have known he wasn't human – human hearts couldn't take the kind of stress this guy was under. He probably should have left, but Gabriel couldn't just leave the guy, when apparently even seeing Gabriel had been enough to send him into some kind of panic attack.
He was still sobbing, but his eyes were starting to glow now with an odd sort of golden light that didn't dim when he covered them. If anything, this seemed to make matters worse – his sobbing descending into incoherent denials, recognizable more by tone than content, and Gabriel took a step back to the doorway as the light overflowed and ran across his face and down his arms to pool in his hands, the only other part of him left uncovered by the conservative costume.
But he seemed to take Gabriel's step back as a further rejection, and curled tighter into himself as if to hide even from the Archangel, still denying and apologizing and blaming himself.
This was too much. Gabriel didn't want to be here, was done with these kinds of personal hells – he had his own and that was more than enough, thanks, and he didn't owe this stranger anything.
Well, maybe something.
Not that any of this was his fault, he didn't know what the hell was going on, but... well. Old habits die hard.
“I forgive you,” he said, and flew off.
Alright, so maybe going that far away in time and space hadn't been the greatest of ideas. Maybe if he stuck a little closer to Earth, not so far in the future (or vice versa? this time/space thing was really messing with him), somewhere that appreciated his kind of talent, where he could really be in charge for a change... that might work... and he knew just the place for it, too.
This time he was ready, so when the bullets flew toward him, they bounced off a shield that left him – and more importantly his impressively long and flowing white robes – unharmed.
“NOBODY SHOOT Oh my God we just shot an Ancient what the hell did you think you were doing this really is a prison colony isn't it they're trying to get rid of me so they saddled me with the MOST INCOMPETENT MORONS THEY COULD FIND I'm so sorry wow you're really short for an Ancient all the others were taller-”
“Breath, Rodney. Give him a chance to say hi.”
The first speaker had already shoved his way to Gabriel's side and was running him up and down with some sort of electronic device. That was a little worrying – he wasn't sure how well his creations would stand up to careful scientific scrutiny – but before he could object the second speaker had waved down the ring of 'incompetent morons' – some kind of military outfit – and was shaking his hand.
“Sorry about him. I'm Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, military commander of Atlantis, he's-”
“-Doctor Rodney McKay Head of the Science and Research Division of the Atlantis Expedition-” the first speaker cut in, barely looking up from his scanner.
“-Doctor Rodney McKay,” Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard nodded wryly, “Head of Science and Research. There's not much we can do about him, really, he has a way of getting underfoot at the most inconvenient times, but, well, what can you do, right? I mean, I'm sure you know that, being an Ancient and all.”
“Indeed,” Gabriel intoned regally. He wasn't really sure what was going on, but if there was anything he was awesome at, it was winging it. “And I am pleased to see that-”
“Code blue!” McKay shouted, and suddenly he and Sheppard were bounding away – well, Sheppard was bounding, while McKay took one two steps backwards and fell. It was hard to tell from where Gabriel was, but it looked as if he and his ring of suddenly very armed and dangerous military goons were standing on some sort of dais, and McKay had fallen ass-first off it.
Under any other circumstances, that'd be hilarious, but really Gabriel was getting tired of the hostile welcomes and just wanted to be somewhere quiet and relaxing and where no one shouted at him or shot projectiles at him and he was done with the emotional rollercoaster, ok? Done. So very fucking done.
Okay, so clearly messing around with neither time nor space was working for him. If he didn't know better he'd think Dad was putting His oar in. But he did know better, so it was clearly just blind bad luck. Had he pissed off The Lady recently? He hadn't thought so, but with Her, you just never knew – that was the point, after all.
Regardless, though, maybe he should stick around 21st century Earth, just to be on the safe side. But he still wanted to stay way the fuck away from the Winchester Wonder Twins. So he decided to skip off to London, England, where he was assured, if not a welcome with open arms, at least a welcome that wasn't outright hostile.
Or, at least, that had been the plan. He was sure this was the place – he'd been been carefully to be quite precise in his incorporation – but the room in which he now found himself had clearly been vacant for quite some time. When he'd last been here, many years ago, this had been the backroom of a dingy little bookshop in Soho, musty to be sure, but also redolent of paper and vellum and the tiniest hint of brimstone. That last had been the fault of an associate of the friend who owned – had owned – the bookstore. Gabriel had never met the 'associate', and was as careful to ask as Aziraphale was not to tell, but he'd come to certain conclusions. If that backstabbing snake-eyed bastard had so much as touched Aziraphale without the angel's express permission, Gabriel would...
wait a minute. There was definitely more than just brimstone here. Was that... holy oil?
Moving carefully so as not to disturb too much dust, Gabriel made his way to the main space of the shop, a largeish alcove surrounded by bookcases and in the lea of one of the rickety spiral staircases that led to the upper floor. If the bookcases had been filled, it would have been nearly invisible – as it was, the little desk and threadbare carpet were the only furnishings left besides the bookcases, so it wasn't hard to find. The holy oil was definitely around here somewhere...
Gabriel poked a few of the bookcases, then, seized with inspiration, snapped the desk and carpet to the other side of the room. Jackpot.
Right under where the desk had sat were the faded remains of a chalk circle about three feet across, with smudged figures around it that might have once been some sort of Hebraic script, and though he couldn't quite read them all, a few were clear enough to get the gist – they were passages from the Cabala of the sort that would, if helped along by a few candles and a little angelic blood, allow angels on Earth-duty to communicate with their siblings in heaven. This set couldn't be used for that anymore, though, because someone had taken holy oil and scribbled the words “My apologies, my dears, but we've decided to retire to a little place in the country. Please don't come looking for us-” and here there was a dash and splotch, as if some of the holy oil had been spilled, and the next line read, in a different hand, “CAUSE IF YOU DO WE'LL SIC ADAM ON YOU SEE IF WE DON'T”, and the whole thing was signed with... a smiley face?
Alright then. Apparently Aziraphale and Associate – probably threatening smiley-face guy, and now Gabriel was regretting not meeting whoever this was, because they would have had fun – were taking themselves out of the picture. He could probably find them, if he really wanted to – he'd had millennia to learn all the tricks, and Aziraphale had had... not much more than a decade, to go by the layers of dust.
But he didn't have anything against Aziraphale – had even kinda liked the guy, though he'd been a little stodgy for Gabriel's tastes – and he knew how dangerous it would be if he went looking for them. He'd find them, but in doing so would break their cover, leaving them open to just the kind of moronic idiocy he was running away from now.
He thought about cleaning up the chalk and holy oil, but decided against it. Aziraphale had used that circle to speak to heaven many times over the centuries, and if another angel interfered with it the whole thing would be like a beacon to heaven's sight. If he left it alone, it was effectively blank – other angels would be able to find it, but they'd have to be looking for it, and Aziraphale hadn't been important enough to garner many connections in heaven – likely no one would come looking until after some human took over the place and remodeled, quietly destroying circle and holy oil both, and with it the easiest way of finding Aziraphale. As human intervention wouldn't register as interference, no one in heaven would notice until it was much too late. It was quite ingenious, really.
It did not, however, help him. So he snapped the carpet and desk back into place, and flew off.
Gabriel was forced to admit that maybe leaving the good ole US of A hadn't been such a bright idea after all.
What about Earth's not-so distant past, before the Winchester boys had had a chance to send the whole thing to pot? And the little bastards didn't like big cities, right? So they'd be somewhere around, but not in whatever big city Gabriel chose. So he'd check out the biggest city – well, his favorite big city – round about the eighties, because why the hell not.
Which was how he was in New York City – Central Park, because feeding the ducks was always fun – when he felt the world change. The humans noticed it too, blind little monkey though they were – the couple necking twenty feet away shivered and started talking about going home early, while a child behind them suddenly began to wail, much to the distress of her father. There was something happening here, something big, and Gabriel wanted no part in it.
He raised his fingers to snap – no idea where he was going, simply away from whatever the hell was about to go down – when there was a terrible clanging behind him, and he spun around to see the horse and rider statues behind him stamp in place before leaping down from theirs plinth and galloping down the avenue, dodging pedestrians and leaping over cars.
Well. That was new. It took a lot of energy to animate something that already existed, that knew its place and its function – far easier to just snap something into existence and just snap it out again. But someone had brought several tons of solid metal to vibrant life, and that couldn't mean anything good for him.
He raised his fingers to snap once more but was distracted again, this time by the rustling of several hundred thousand trees. All around him the trees were standing, ripping out their roots and striding purposefully southwards, following the living statues. And there were other figures too, darting, prancing and gliding between the trees – Alice and the Cheshire Cat, Joan of Arc, a quartet of lion-headed men and women – all heading south.
The humans were running around, desperately trying to get out of the way, but Gabriel stood strong and let it all flow around him. The statues and trees seemed to have been truly brought to life, rather than simply an obedient semblance of it – Alice bumped into him as she passed, and stopped to curtsy to him in apology before she continued – and some of the trees seemed more eager than others, larch and rowan striding ahead of sumac and fir.
And then the sun went out.
The statues didn't stop but the trees shook, and he saw one small sapling turn and run. Plants had never been his thing, but even if he'd been blind, deaf and dumb he still would have heard them and this was too much it was too fucking much on top of everything else and he had to get-
He froze. Knew he had to turn around because he really didn't like getting stabbed but he hated getting stabbed in the back even more but he couldn't look around. Because however bad the Winchesters had been, they hadn't given him hope. The little idiots had represented an end, but never new beginnings. Never reconciliation. Dean Winchester, in all his sheer Righteous Man idiocy, could never have held the Archangel Michael reforged. He'd never known his brother like this: not broken and twisted, neither untouched nor uninvolved. The presence behind him was Michael, not as he had been, perfect and mighty and righteous, or as he was, a pompous dick obsessed with following empty orders, but as he might be, having passed through Hell and come out the better. This was the brother he remembered, who'd never really existed except in his mind, and he sure as fuck didn't exist now.
But if he turned around, then he'd have to see that. Have to accept that.
So he didn't turn around, just stood there as all the trees writhed in terror and marched on. Some part of him wondered where the fuck they were going, but most of him couldn't have cared less.
The bastard was smiling, he could hear it, and he could just turn around and it would all be alright and he could go home and it'd all be okay-
Except that it wouldn't, because this was too good to be true, he knew it was, had taught that lesson himself hundreds of times, it never turned out alright and you always got screwed and-
He snapped himself away
"Hey guys, how's it hanging? ... guys?"
"...Dean, what are you seeing?"
"...I'm looking at the sunovabitch archangel who got himself ganked a while back and left us a note in a porno. How 'bout you?"
"...same. Maybe it was those hamburgers at lunch-"
"-so good we mighta been slipped something? Right, you keep twinkle-toes here from skipping on us, and I'll get Cas- ... he's standing right behind me, isn't he? Damn it Cas, I hate it when you do that."
"Hey bro, mind telling these two knuckleheads it's really me?"
"Hey Cas, it's not really the fucker, right?"
"Were Gabriel not truly present, it would indicate that another entity who knew of him were taking his form, a theft to which the true Gabriel would not take kindly."
"So it is really the fucker?"
"That or someone who doesn't mind pissing off the real archangel, Dean, and I'm guessing that's a short list."
"A micro-list, Sammy-boy – I really don't like imitators, they never get my hair right."
"So it is the fucker?"
"... Anything strong enough to masquerade as an archangel would most likely be well-informed enough not to choose to represent itself as one believed gone."
"Exactly! If I wasn't me, wouldn't I have popped in as Michael or something?"
"Michael's in the pit with Lucifer."
"... Bad example, then. But I could have told you I was, I dunno, Raguel or something."
"Who the fuck is that?"
"Raguel is one of the angels who punishes other angels who are believed to have transgressed the laws of the Lord. He was very attentive to his duties when I was returned to heaven."
"Hang on Cas, you mean this Rag guy was one of your brainwashing goons?"
"Indeed. So it would likely have not been to your benefit, Gabriel, had you appeared to us in any guise but your own."
"Wait, so now we are believing him? After all the son of bitch did to us?"
"Woah, woah, sorry guys, guess this was a bad idea, I'll just be going then, no harm no foul, right? See-"
"Sam, let go of him right the fuck now."
"Yeah Sammy, let go of the big mean archangel who was only trying to do you a favor-"
"Oh really!? 'Cause last time-"
"BOTH OF YOU SHUT UP! ... Gabriel, please don't leave, we need you-"
"Dean! We need him and you fucking know it so just – play, ok?"
"Dean? Fine, be that way. Gabriel?"
"I'm gonna assume it really is you, and I don't know how that's even possible because you were dead, but we could really, really use your help. Please. ... Guys, help me out here. ... Dean-"
"Hey man, this is your party, you want to invite the zombie trickster to a party you can fucking well clean up after him."
"... I'll take that as a yes. Castiel?"
"It... would be pleasant to be in the company of one of my brothers, for a time, without fearing for your safety."
"Okay then. Gabriel?"
"Hold on, kiddo, what are you asking me, exactly?"
"I'm asking you if you'd like to be on our side for awhile. Kill the bad things, keep the world from going to pot. Please. We could use your help, and you look like you could use some company."
"Oh I do, do I?"
"Yeah, you do."
There wasn't any cheering or whoops of laughter or pats on the back. Dean was looking at him with unconcealed distrust, and Castiel was doing his standard stuffed-frog impression. But Sam was grinning, and Castiel could get some rest now, and Dean would come around eventually. Probably after having been saved from certain death a few times. Maybe Gabriel could- no, arranging something would defeat the point, wouldn't it? But the Winchester Wiseguys got themselves into trouble often enough, he shouldn't have to wait too long. It'd be fine. He was fine here. He could make a place for himself here. It would be fine.
AN: not a clue where this came from.