An Acorn Button
a March-Stalkers Mighty extra
All children, except one, grow up.
Wendy also said that she would give him a kiss if he liked, but Peter did not know what she meant, and he held out his hand expectantly.
“Surely you know what a kiss is?” she asked, aghast.
“I shall know when you give it to me,” he replied stiffly; and, not to hurt his feeling, she gave him a thimble.
“Now,” said he, “shall I give you a kiss?” and she replied with a slight primness, “If you like.” She made herself rather cheap by inclining her face toward him, but he merely dropped an acorn button into her hand, so she slowly returned her face to where it had been before, and said nicely that she would wear his kiss on the chain around her neck.
Peter Pan, James M. Barrie, 1911 after the play of 1904 (Chapters 1 & 3).
Pairings: Castiel/Dean, Gabriel/Sam preslash.
Genre and tropes: Pre-slash. Fantasy AU. Dean over-reacting when it comes to his little brother.
Word count: 5700.
Spoilers: None - AU.
Summary: So, okay, it took a while for Dean to work out that it was even possible for a guy to want love and sex with another guy, when it came to him and Castiel. And what with having finally got his act together there, and this whole angel-human treaty business, he’s been a bit distracted, okay? Can’t blame a guy if he takes a week or two to work out what that realisation means for the way his little brother looks at Gabriel.
Warnings: Passing reference to xenophobia or homophobia. Dean being a bit of a dick. Brief teenage angst.
And Sam… Sam was over there, looming by the feed shed, with his eyes practically shining. That fond knowing smirk of his was half-hidden behind his hand, like he could see what Gabriel was doing and every one of his flaws all at once and still wanted him for his hero.
And hold on. Hold on just one freaking second. Dean recognised that look, but not from Sam: he knew it because it was what he saw on Castiel, in Castiel’s eyes when he looked at Dean.
It was the thing with the bull that clued Dean in.
About a week had passed since the bonfire night. Gabriel had been strutting about like he owned the world and expected a challenge any minute. He was popping up all over the place, always when he was least expected, to drop flamboyantly sardonic comment on what everyone was doing, or lend some casual archangel strength to a task, or lounge in the corner of the square with an untouched pint, watching everyone with sharp eyes. That took up most of the time: the rest of it, he’d been hiding out on the farms, pretending not to exist.
Dean wasn’t sure whether he was still too weak to go outside the walls and camp, or was sticking around for other reasons and just didn’t care about being obnoxious.
Sam was being all earnest and enthusiastic and I-believe-in-the-power-of-the-human-
And Castiel was... something that Dean still couldn’t bring himself to believe in, just the way he looked at Dean and glowed, but it was pretty damn awesome.
There were some people who weren’t being so awesome about it, but screw them. Dean wasn’t sure how much of it was because Castiel was a guy (which only affected bedroom stuff so was none of their business), and how much was because he was an angel (which, fair, but they’d all sworn by the Charter to the allies thing and this was a chance to prove they could be friends as well, so no one had any call to be jumping down their throats before they’d put a foot wrong).
Whatever. Nothing Dean couldn’t deal with. It was just a couple of smelly swamp bubbles, here and there.
So Dean had had a lot to think about, okay, and it wasn’t like it had been obvious. Except maybe in retrospect. Just like all that making out he and Castiel had been doing for weeks before Dean had cottoned on could have been considered as an obvious sign that Castiel was, you know, interested. Maybe. A bit. Still didn’t mean he deserved that look from Castiel, the heavy one with the resigned quirk of the mouth and the softened set of his wings that said Dean I am very fond of you but sometimes you are not very clever.
So, the thing with the bull. One hell of a wakeup call.
It wasn’t a big deal, really. One of the young bulls got out and went crashing away down the hill towards the chicken coops, furious in its confusion. Gabriel planted himself on the road in front of it, whistled to get its attention, and just stood there grinning. The bull, relieved to have something definite to do, charged full tilt at him with horns down and dudgeon up. The poor brute slammed into the archangel like he was solid rock, then found itself flat on the ground with one horn pinned under an immovable foot and one ear twisted just enough that it couldn’t pull, and had to stay there until nooses and noserings and cattle dogs arrived.
It was perfectly calculated to make a very public and dramatic point, a show of strength to the people who’d locked him up and made him weak. Flamboyance and flair in front of the barn where he’d been turned into a mindless animal.
Gabriel was a total performer. Just commanding attention, like it was that simple to him to just reach out and take control of what people thought of him. To twist it into something new and shiny and alluring inside their heads, even without using any magic. And the thing was, he was such a sheer salesman that you wanted to believe him. Even if you knew there was a mess of different truths under there, the swagger and the charm and the danger was the fairy tale you wanted to buy.
Dean had turned up halfway through, and Sam had come charging up from the shearing pens as soon as he’d heard the ruckus, so they’d both been in time to see the moment of impact. Thud, and dust, and the scuffle of hooves on the ground, and the beast went down hard while the grinning angel kept his feet, shouted out and tipped a cocky smirk at whatever someone was yelling back to him. Caught ropes tossed to him, looped them around the bull’s horns, kept it bellowing and confused and impotent until it was led away. Kept everyone’s eyes on him like a lamp in a dusky room, and owned it.
And Sam... Sam was over there, looming by the feed shed, with his eyes practically shining. That fond knowing smirk of his was half-hidden behind his hand, like he could see what Gabriel was doing and every one of his flaws all at once, and still wanted him for his hero.
And hold on. Hold on just one freaking second. Dean recognised that look, but not from Sam: he knew it because it was what he saw on Castiel, in Castiel’s eyes when he looked at Dean.
People moved, the bull trudged sheepishly back to where it was meant to be with three ropes stretched tight from each horn, jobs were resumed. Sam hung back for a bit, then slunk over to Gabriel and gave him a different look, the one that he usually gave to Dean when he thought he was being ridiculous but secretly kind of liked it. It was meant to go with a punch to the shoulder or a nudge, but touching Gabriel was never a good idea.
“Seriously?” Sam mouthed, and Gabriel just cocked an ironic kind of eyebrow at him and shrugged.
Sam beamed like a kid, then hid it in a cough when Victor looked at him.
... Son of a bitch.
Okay. Okay, Dean wasn’t going to just go charging in and start knocking heads together. He was going to go home, keep it cool, and think about this.
.Sam had a crush.
No. No, this was more than that. Sam was actually infatuated. Which meant that everything over the past – oh shit, how long? Everything that Sam had said or thought or chosen, it all had to be reassessed. Because if he wasn’t thinking clearly... if he wasn’t quite himself?
Gabriel. Gabriel, what was he doing in all this? He wasn’t after Sam, surely - he was still doing the whole cold shoulder thing - but Dean knew just how far Gabriel would go for Sam, okay, he’d seen it, and that shit wasn’t healthy. And also Sam was... was impressionable, and Gabriel was older and cynical and had a history of messing up and being really freaking vicious when things went wrong and running away from the mess and leaving people broken behind him and making really really bad decisions, and... shit. Shit shit shit.
And here Dean had been thinking Sam had been badgering Gabriel to take him along as an apprentice.
Only hold on. That conversation. That one freaking weird talk. Him and Sam after Dean had delivered Castiel’s letter to Gabriel out at his wagon about three weeks back, when Sam had gone over all weird and blushy at seeing Gabriel naked. And Dean had thought they’d been talking about – he couldn’t even remember, some crush, but the usual kind of crush a kid might have on a man, admiration and I-wanna-be-like-him-when-I-grow-up, not I-wish-he’d-sweep-me-off-my-feet-and-
The guilty panic, and Is it that obvious?
It was just the once, and He apologised after, looking all sad and confused, and He thinks I’m a kid, okay?
... They had. They had. Gabriel had... had got his hands on Dean’s little brother. And then he’d run away and made Sam think it was his fault.
Dean was going to kill him. Screw the Charter, he was going to make the fucker beg.
There was this letter Castiel had been working on for a week, trying to get it just right before he dispatched Rachel to carry it back to the rest of the angels. Dean wasn’t really sure why it took so long to write “here’s a copy of the Charter we agreed to and by the way I’m getting married,” but apparently angels had very complicated elegant rules for formal writing, and the subject matter was delicate enough that Castiel didn’t want to risk messing it up.
Which meant that, even if Dean had no idea where to find Gabriel right now, he knew exactly where Castiel would be.
Three heads lifted from around the drafting table when Dean stormed into the archives: Castiel, Jody, and Sam quickest of all.
“Hello to you too, Dean, what the hell?”
Dean grabbed the edge of the table right by Castiel’s elbow, to stop himself from grabbing Sam. The tough old beeswax that filled its surface shifted and crumpled under his fingers. “Gabriel. I’m gonna break the charter, Cas, sorry.”
“Would you excuse us, ma’am?” said Castiel to Jody, polite as anything.
“Sounds like I’d better.” Her chair scraped as she stood up, but Dean didn’t look at her. She knew better than to get in the way of family.
“He seduced you?” Dean burst out, and Sam went violently red and shot a hunted look back and forth between Castiel and the door the Jody was hurriedly closing behind her, and son of a bitch, he had!
The second “Dean, what the hell,” was weaker, and Dean jumped right in on top of it. “He hurt you, Sammy, huh?”
“No!” Sam’s chair clattered to the ground as he shot to his feet and he grabbed for it, stumbling, fumbling. “No! he wouldn’t do that! He’s not interested,” and there, at the end, a plaintive note that had Dean surging forward around the table to grab Sam’s shirt and drag him in.
He thinks I’m just a kid, okay?
“So, what,” Dean snarled, and Sam’s heart was warm and pounding under his hand, “you’re good enough to screw around with but too young to promise himself to?”
“Dean!” Sam shoved him, hard, and his voice was all strident and scandalised and ashamed, but Dean held on.
“What did he do, Sam? What happened?”
“Nothing! Nothing happened, Dean, we’ve had this conversation.”
“That’s not the conversation I was having!” Dean dragged him in closer, bunching his hands tight in Sam’s shirt and collar to feel the warm skin alive and soft under his knuckles, Sam’s fingers tearing and bruising at his wrists. “You didn’t say nothing, you said just the once. What the hell did he do to you?”
“I kissed him, okay?” It was hurled into Dean’s face like a weapon, or maybe like something that tasted so bad that Sam just had to get it out of his mouth. The shock of it must have loosened Dean’s grip, because suddenly his hands were empty and Sam was hauling them clear of himself, pushing Dean away so hard that he staggered.
“I kissed him,” Sam repeated, sharp and high, all backed into a corner and humiliated. “And he – I think he kissed me back, but then he said – I don’t know, he didn’t really say anything, just that it was a bad idea, or I wasn’t old enough, or something, and then he wouldn’t talk to me properly after, and –”
“You kissed him?” Dean found his tongue, but that was all he could find to say, because, what the hell? “What, are you insane?”
“It wasn’t like that, Dean, look, screw you, that’s mine! It was - sweet, and you’ve been kissing Castiel since the day you found him! It’s none of your damn business!” Sam was yelling now, angry: fists balled up and face blotchy and eyes all wide and shiny like they’d used to go when he was a kid. And, hell, what kind of a turn had Gabriel done to Sam’s head when Dean had been too wrapped up in his own crap to notice?
No way was Sam going with Gabriel if it was going to be this bad.
“Sam,” Dean tried, and reached out. “Sammy.”
“You kissed the guy,” Dean pleaded, because this made no freaking sense and that was the scariest thing of all, and why couldn’t Sam see that? “An insane archangel who’s never gonna stick around and now you, what, wanna run away with him and have a happily ever after wandering around the world holding hands and looking at hippos?”
Sam’s shoulders hunched up and his eyes flickered in Castiel’s direction, cheeks burning. “Dean, it’s nothing like that, okay? We’re just going to be... working together.”
“I don’t wanna see him touching you!” Dean snapped.
“You wouldn’t see it if you didn’t go sticking your nose in where it’s none of your business,” Sam yelled, like Dean wasn’t even listening. “You see me barging into your bedroom when you and Cas are... are...?”
Except if Sam was all messed up in the head by this, how could anything he’d done or suggested for weeks be trusted?
Dean closed his eyes against the sudden gut-punch memory of sweet innocent little Sammy, with his big eyes and his wide grin and all that goddamn faith. The image swam sickeningly inside his head, grinned like a ghoul, and flickered like water into something else. Some sly-mouthed pedlar with his brother’s face and body, all slick and cosmopolitan, changing his persona from town to town with the blood of a skinwalker running in his veins, and –
No. Not gonna happen.
“That’s not who you’re meant to be, okay?” he growled, because Dad wouldn’t have stood for it, and Dean had let Dad down in a hell of a lot of ways since he’d died but not where it came to Sam. Not yet. “You’re gonna marry some nice chick and settle down and have kids.”
“Like hell I am, Dean, I keep telling you –”
“Okay, fine, so you want to run away and have your little adventure in the big world first and get that out of your system. But not with him.” He shoved forward, caught Sam and cradled his face between his hands, thumbs pressing white dots in against his cheekbones as Sam tried to tug away. “Newsflash, Sammy: he’ll screw you over.”
“Dean, I chose this!”
“That doesn’t count! You weren’t thinking straight, okay, you were under some kind of influence, this isn’t you.”
Sam punched him.
Dean didn’t see it coming. It cracked into the side of his cheek, low in front of the ear, and spun him around with his whole jaw shuddering. His knee slammed into something hard, up was suddenly sideways, and if it hadn’t been for the strong hand on his elbow he would have gone down hard.
Too strong for human, too small for Sam.
His knuckles brushed against a chair back, and he grabbed for it and waited blindly for his head to stop spinning. Castiel’s hand retreated.
Fucking stupid angle to hit someone at, Dean noted numbly. Could knock a guy’s jaw out of place that way. He prodded at it, and winced.
Sam was staring at him, panting and incredulous and looking like he was the one who’d taken the blow.
Dean’s eyes slid away, because it hurt to look at him.
Castiel was just sitting at the desk watching, with his clever fingers clasped over his stylus and his eyes all blue and cool. He’d stopped halfway through a word, when Dean had burst in. Two thirds of the surface of the desk were covered with Castiel’s careful, sloping hand – neat little incisions in the wax, with none of those crumbs and furrows Dean got when he wrote too quickly – with a few lines of Jody’s firm round letters, and a couple here and there from Sam.
Sam’s letters were always small, like he was trying not to take up too much space, but all the long strokes – the stems of ‘p’, ‘b’, ‘d’ and so on, the tails of ‘y’ and ‘g’ and ‘z’ - escaped in meandering trails, tapering off exuberantly halfway into the next line and pressing the strokes in the line above out of shape.
Dean’s boy always had too many ideas to fit into a neat bundle of letters.
My marriage shall be to De. That was as far as Castiel had got, before Dean had interrupted.
“Cas, you wanna contribute?” Dean growled, because, seriously, not a word?
Castiel flipped the stylus between his fingers (one of those easy, elegant little motions of his that made Dean’s breath catch), and reached out to smooth away the dents Dean’s fingers had left in the wax with the flat end of it. “No,” he said mildly. “You are being a dick. No useful discussion on the issue will take place until you stop.”
Dean gaped at him. This was important, dammit, and it was about Castiel’s brother too, and how could he just sit there and not get involved?
Only. Don’t you ever get angry, Cas?, he remembered, when it had been about Castiel’s other brother, the one Dean had killed to protect Sam. And Castiel’s rueful little smile, and Rarely, these days: it is a luxury that has been unwise since I was much younger than I am now.
Dean got mad, because Dean was a dick. Castiel was... Castiel, and he got things done. He fixed things. And also Dean couldn’t yell at him, because his hair was all rumpled up on one side where he’d been tugging at it trying to write.
Castiel’s mouth softened a bit at the corners – surprise and relief, Dean registered automatically, by the way his wings settled more comfortably in against his shoulders – and he swivelled the stylus again, looked down, and finished pressing Dean’s name into the wax.
Sam’s eyes went wide and indignant. “Wait, so now he gets to call you on that?”
“You do anyway,” Dean muttered, and added “Bitch” for good measure.
Except apparently Sam was still seriously upset, because he didn’t play along like he was meant to when Dean said that – just tightened his jaw and lifted his chin and said, “Screw you. Dick.”
“Okay,” Dean breathed, and looked around the room. Archives. Legalities. Authority and ways to do things without hurting people. Law and tradition, not fists. Doing it gently. “Okay. You can get out of it. There’s no formal indenture, so. We can fix this. I can do it if you’re too... I can tell him you’ve changed your mind, Sammy.”
“You can stay the hell away from him,” Sam snarled, hackles bristling in his voice like the huge tawny dog that Dean tried not to think about, and he slammed out of the room.
“Sam!” Dean roared after him, then, “Fuck,” and the door bounced back in his face, and.
Everything in Dean said to follow him and knock sense into his head, but what good could chasing him possibly do if his mind was all twisted up by this Gabriel nonsense and he was set on thinking this was just Dean being all... being Dean, the one who stayed at home and did nothing unexpected and tried to stop Sam from having adventures.
And. For the first time ever, in a Sam argument, there was another centre of gravity here. Dean wasn’t just being pulled by the inexorable you-belong-with-him in his gut to charge out the door after Sam, to grab him and to keep him. There was another tug, another safe stable centre, and it was still in this room with Dean.
“Well done,” Castiel said quietly.
Dean’s instinct was to snap out some smart-ass comeback that would keep everything at bay, but... this was Castiel. And he didn’t sound sarcastic, or even dry. Just... kind of sad.
“Hell,” he muttered instead, and punched the door frame. Then cradled his hand, because, shit, he should remember not to do that in stone buildings, and his jaw was still throbbing and tender and the impact had jarred all the way up his arm. “Hell! He’s going to go and find Gabriel, isn’t he? Shit, Cas, what do I do?”
“It isn’t up to you to do anything, Dean.”
Castiel’s voice behind him was too soft and too firm, like this was all simple and easy.
Dean spun around and jabbed a finger at him. “Gabriel does not get to do that to my kid brother.”
“Is that such a terrible thing?” Castiel said, still with that stupid calmness of his, still pressing letters into the wax. “If they were to fall in love?”
“It wouldn’t be in love, Cas, it’d be a disaster.” Dean scrambled for words, and dragged a hand down hard over his face. “A freaking mess, and it’d break Sam, and he just fucking worships the guy, and –”
Castiel’s eyes went narrow, and the stylus jabbed one final punctuation mark into the wax, then stilled. “Do you think so little of both of them as that?”
“Or you think, perhaps, that my brother is really the man to force himself on another?”
Hell. Sam’s face, when he looked at Gabriel. Like he’d reshape himself into whatever he thought Gabriel wanted, and Gabriel wouldn’t even need to say a word.
“He wouldn’t have to, Cas,” he snarled, “That’s the freaky thing. All he’d have to do would be mess with Sam’s mind just enough that he’d...”
It was low, much quieter than Dean’s voice, but there was a weight and a warning to it that had Dean’s thoughts screeching to a halt.
Castiel’s eyes were cold and so very piercingly blue, and there was something vast in there that only turned up when he was thinking about his brother. Not Gabriel. The other one. Balthazar. The brother that Dean had killed. The brother that Dean had taken away from him forever and that, for some weird completely inexplicable reason, Castiel seemed like he might possibly forgive him for.
... So maybe, death threats against Castiel’s other brother, not so tactful. Way to go, Dean. Backtrack, backtrack.
Gabriel, cast a glamour over Sam’s mind? Deliberately manipulate him into... into sex? Love? When the only evil plans he’d been able to concoct so far were smashing a cliff to turn the hunt off the trail of his injured little brother, and almost getting himself killed by a demon and a will-o’-the-wisp to set right his family’s messes and save Sam and Castiel? And, of course, the ongoing plan to beat away everyone who tried to get close to him.
“Okay. Fine,” Dean gritted out, and stepped up to spread his fingers out over the rim of the desk. “No.”
Castiel’s eyebrows did that dry little quirk of theirs, the one that meant ‘please elaborate because yes, I am going to make you say it’.
Dean sighed, rolled his eyes at him, and couldn’t help softening his tone for him just a bit, even though he didn’t feel much like a smile. “No. I don’t think he’d really do that to Sam. But Cas, Sam’s seriously gone on him. He could really hurt Sam, and not even know he’s done it. Would you really be okay with them just going off and spending months alone out there together?”
Castiel ducked his head under Dean’s stare, and his voice was halfway to embarrassed, though his words were brazen enough. “They care deeply for each other, Dean. I wouldn’t trust a companion in arms who felt less. Would... sex really make such a difference?”
“Aw, man,” Dean protested, dropped his eyes, and definitely didn’t blush just because of the halfway-shy and halfway-stubborn way Castiel said the last bit, and the images it called up: Castiel the warrior, launching himself fire-eyed at a wendigo with Dean at his side, and Castiel the tender, stunned and hopeful in Dean’s bed.
Castiel’s fingers were splayed out on the edge of the table, the pads of them brushing against the wax. Mirror to Dean’s. His written sentence was complete, and there were another two that followed, now.
My marriage shall be to Dean Winchester, a man who has fought valiantly against our incursions (as they understood it) to save his own family and people, and who holds my heart. It is a marriage of love; but it stands also as testament to my belief that an alliance of true friendship and understanding is possible between our people and theirs; and that the attempt to build such an edifice ought, in conscience and in strategy, to be made. Our souls are not so very different, after all.
A picture of a man Dean didn’t recognise.
Dean swallowed and stepped away from the table, heart squeezing tight and hot inside his chest. Behind him, he heard the scrape and click and clank of Castiel loosing the catch and flipping the desk top over, so that the wax surface and its drafted letter faced the floor and the wood was uppermost again.
“They would have to take their chances with daily life, like the rest of us,” said Castiel, with a bit of that awkwardness Dean loved – yes, loved, screw anyone who said he couldn’t think that about the voice of his betrothed.
But, shit. Sam. Days and days trapped in a wagon with some guy he barely knew, compared to everyone here in this town that he’d known all his life. New places every day, new people every day, and always Gabriel, Gabriel. How the hell could Sam keep himself him?
Dean’s hands were shaking. That’s why the chair was rattling against the floor. Dean had both hands gripping the back of the chair, and they were shaking, and the wood was juddering against the tiles. Yes. That was it.
Castiel’s face swam into view, and his hands pressed down on top of Dean’s, warm and solid.
“I think you are only just realising,” he murmured, too firm to be sympathetic or tactful or any of those other things that Castiel never bothered with, “that, whatever happens in Sam’s life once he is gone, you won’t be there to protect him.”
“Fuck. Cas.” Dean’s arms jerked, tugging away, but Castiel’s hands on his stayed right where they were, and so did Dean. “Don’t sugar-coat it, will you?”
Castiel’s mouth quirked a bit at the corner, not quite a smile, and he leaned in with one knee on the seat of the chair to touch his lips to the corner of Dean’s jaw.
“That would be unkind,” he murmured, and the heat of his breath was its own kind of sweetness.
The door slammed behind Sam, too hard, rattling its hinges and the lintel. Dean was roaring something, and any minute now he’d probably charge out after Sam, grab for him again, and tear him even more ragged than he...
No bravado of wine now. That wasn’t fair. Sam had got Gabriel to agree – that was meant to be the hard part, and he’d had wine for that. But now, with no hot courage running through his blood, and after days of thinking things like how he’d have to go months at a time not seeing the way Chevy liked to nose her way in under curtains because she liked to sleep with some weight across her flank, and the way the sun always washed the wall of the Roadhouse red just for one minute every morning, and the wide bright stretch of Dean’s grin when he -
Sam had known it was too good to be true, Dean just being cool with it and trusting him. What if Gabriel really didn’t want him at all and had only agreed because he’d been a bit shaky back then, getting over the will-o’-the-wisp thing, or to make the whiny kid shut up, or because he felt like he had to because Sam had saved his life, and what if Sam was going to make everyone he cared about all miserable just because he was too stubborn and selfish to let this stupid idea go?
There was a low whistle, off to his left.
Gabriel was lounging against the back wall of the archives, in the narrow little alcove between that and the wall of the stable yards, and his eyes were sharp in the shadows.
Oh hell. Not right now, please. Of all the people who could be hanging around out here, seeing Sam like this. Because Dean always did this, he was the only person who could. He could still just... just punch straight through Sam’s defences, still, and make him feel like that messed-up twelve-year-old who couldn’t do anything right and was never going to fit in.
“Gabriel,” he blurted out, and backed away, flapping his hands in a way that he hoped might indicate I urgently need to be elsewhere. “Um. Hi, I just need to.”
Gabriel tossed him a pear.
Sam caught it, on reflex. It was purple and dark green, flecked with yellow, and it was almost firm. One of Charlie’s. Barely ripe.
“I’m guessing you like ‘em tart, Winchester,” Gabriel drawled, and it sounded like mockery but it didn’t feel like it.
“Um. Thanks,” Sam said dumbly, and rubbed a thumb over the smooth dark surface. “Didn’t know Charlie’s pears were ripe yet.”
Gabriel shrugged, like the constraints of seasons and crop growth were beneath his notice, and took a bite out of his own pear. It was riper than Sam’s: juice slid out of the crushed flesh and clung to Gabriel’s fingertips, until he licked it off, a quick flash of pink tongue. “That was your brother who went storming in there ten minutes back, then?”
Sam flushed, crossed his arms tight over his belly, and looked away from the careful gleam of Gabriel’s eyes (and the sweet stickiness at the corner of his mouth).
“Doesn’t matter. He’s just being a dick. Again.”
Gabriel went quiet, and when Sam chanced another peek he was only looking at the fruit in his hand, studying the crisp white flesh, and leaning in to lick a careful stripe up his wrist where the juice had run down.
Sam swallowed. Because that was the other thing.
Who was he kidding, thinking that he could go through day after day of looking at Gabriel and wanting, wondering, (thinking how Dean would just lean easily into Castiel’s space like he belonged there, like Castiel was a part of him that had been missing all his life), and not drive Gabriel crazy with having to put up with some stupid crush?
Maybe Sam should just find a way to wriggle out of it.
But it wouldn’t be Dean’s way. Sam wasn’t chancing Gabriel hearing any of the crap Dean had spouted in there. Because Gabriel was a hero who was convinced he was a failure: because Gabriel might just believe what Dean said.
“You should probably stay out of his way for a bit, though,” he muttered, and glared at the ground.
Gabriel made a thoughtful sound into his pear. And now his eyes were on Sam, he could feel it, piercing and thoughtful and probably doing that thing where they looked all inscrutable and honey-gold in the shadows.
Sam hunched his shoulders up and shoved his hands into his pockets. The anger was draining away, leaving him feeling kind of small and miserable. He hadn’t known Dean thought he was that useless.
“So. Proposition,” Gabriel said suddenly, all bright and perky. “Was thinking about it a few months ago, actually, but without a second driver there wasn’t much to be done. You probably noticed it’s getting a bit crowded in that little old wagon. There’s only so much you can pile on the roof and sling under the floor and stash away on shelves, and there’s a market for a hell of a lot more than I can carry or the mare can drag. Plus you eat three times what I do, and there’s no way I’d – we’d be able to squeeze a giraffe-sized bed into that tiny old thing. Wanna help me build a second wagon?”
Sam blinked. The sun was riding out from behind the clouds, making the shadows around Gabriel darker by contrast, but the flash of his grin was blinding anyway.
“You want me to help you build another wagon?” he repeated cautiously.
“Sure!” Gabriel tossed away the core and strolled out from behind the wall. “Can’t really love a rig unless you’ve put her together with your own hands, you know. All the nuts and bolts and hidden little secrets and spells of her, inside and out.”
The hot lump of worry eased up a bit inside Sam’s chest. Gabriel had been thinking about this. About having him around. He’d been planning. And he sounded actually... well, nonchalant in the way he did when he was pretending not to be pleased.
“Dude,” he said, and scrubbed one hand across his eyes because they still felt a bit red and wet. “That sounds kind of...”
“Dirty? Entirely intentional,” Gabriel assured him cheerfully, and began walking backwards in the direction of the wood sheds, hands in pockets, eyebrows waggling ridiculously (and shit, Sam was so done for and he didn’t care). “You’re going to be riding her all day, after all. Speaking of,” as Sam snickered and shook his head and blushed a bit, “we’re going to need another horse too.”
Sam looked over his shoulder. No Dean charging out after him, yelling and demanding he turn back into this obedient little kid who couldn’t do anything without his big brother. Of course not, because Dean had Castiel now. The house would belong to Dean and Castiel.
Which was what Sam had chosen.
And if there was a sad kind of a pang there, it was a good kind of sad. Mostly.
Especially with the way Gabriel was looking back at Sam and quirking his eyebrow, and smiling. Almost warm. Definitely hopeful.
Just one thing...
“What’s a giraffe?”
“Show you in... oh, seven months. You planning to eat that pear, or let it sprout?”
Sam looked down at it, took a bite, and followed him.
It was a good pear.
Note: Hey, Jody’s writing desk!
Nowadays, we take writing surfaces for granted. Paper is cheap and disposable to us, but that’s a relatively recent phenomenon (like so much of consumer culture). It isn’t easy to produce, and either you have a vast paper mill (which isn’t worth it for these guys) or you import a whole lot of it (which isn’t practical when all your trade connections are a couple of guys in a wagon who come by once or twice a year, because they would have to charge ridiculous amounts to make it worth the bulk). So they probably make up batches now and then out of rags and use it for ephemera or casual use like Dean’s sketchbooks. Proper books would be made of parchment (of sheep, goat, or calfskin), which is simpler (though time-consuming) to produce, but has an obvious finite limit unless you want to kill off all your livestock. (The books are, of course, hand-bound and hand-written: no printing press in a town this size!)
Consequently, for drafting and little daily ephemera like instructions or a to-do list, you use wax tablets - as people did in the Roman Empire (and possibly before – I’m not a classicist, so I’m not sure) and right through the Middle Ages, even into the Early Modern period, until paper became more cheaply available. The most common ones were hand-held – pocket-sized, basically – and were essentially a wooden rectangle with one side hollowed out and filled with wax. A stylus (pointed at one end, flattened out into a spatulate shape on the other) was then used to scrape or press letters into the wax, which could be erased with the other end. Almost every written work in Western history from before 1600 was drafted, at least in part, on wax – exceptions would be very short works, or those by people with amazing brains like Thomas Aquinas who spent several years composing his first great book in his head, then reputedly dictated the entirety of it start to finish to one of his fellow monks.
Now, I’ve never heard of any wax tablet the size of an entire tabletop, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible, with a few adaptations to the design (I imagine the surface underneath would need to be strongly cross-hatched or ribbed). If it isn’t possible, well, let’s just assume they smoothed the edges with some spell. It would certainly be useful, for composing large tracts of text – just write all over your desk, then copy it out onto paper/parchment on the side table when you’ve got it right! And when you’re not drafting, just flip the table over so the wooden side is uppermost again. Just remember not to press your knees up against the under surface of the table, or you’ll get wax all over your trousers.