17.

Sam stumbles and catches himself on the wall and the gun falls and he can hear the cartridges scattering from their box. He curses, everyone was usually good about putting things back in their usual places but people did forget. He goes down on his hand and knees and pats the floor for the gun and cartridges.

Someone catches him by the wrist and shoves him back, against the wall. Not Dean, who didn’t have that much strength and not Cas, who was always gentle.

"Gabriel," Sam says.

"Don’t you dare." Gabriel snarls at him. "Don’t you fucking dare even think about it."

"You don’t understand." Sam says bitterly, "I can’t do anything. Anything! I can’t hunt, I can’t even do the research part and Dean is stuck here with me. I can’t read, I can’t even write because my right hand’s useless. I’m going mad. You have to let me do this.” He’s shouting by the end of his speech.

"No, no. I don’t have to let you do anything and especially not this. We haven’t lived through a war just to let you die now.” Gabriel says and he still sounds furious but a little less than before.

Sam thinks he would be crying now if Lucifer hadn’t burnt his lacrimal glands out along with his eyes. He hears Gabriel moving, and thinks he’s coming closer. A moment later, Gabriel has slid down to sit on the floor beside him with a thump. They sit there for a long time. Long enough for Sam’s heart to slow down again, the adrenaline going away. Then Gabriel’s hand comes to rest on his thigh; Sam slumps down and moves to rest his head on Gabriel’s shoulder.

"Come on," Gabriel says suddenly.

"Where to?" Sam asks, not that he really cares. He doesn’t want to move. He can’t fucking deal with the world and Gabriel can’t make him.

"Up you get, come on sugarplum," Gabriel says, pulling him up and Sam’s too tired even to object to the silly nickname. 

Gabriel leads him forward and suddenly…

"Gabriel," Sam can hear his voice trembling, "I can see. It’s weird but. What did you do?" He knows he must be hurting Gabriel with how tightly he’s holding on but he can’t make himself stop. Then he says, "Gabriel, this is you isn’t it? I’m seeing through your eyes. That’s why I can see all of this…stuff."

"It’s not a permanent solution." Gabriel says, and there’s an undertone of stress in his voice that tells Sam that this is as intimate for him as it is for Sam. He pulls Sam along by his good hand, out into the porch overlooking their backyard. There are trees here, and Sam can see birds too. And the sunlight.

He can see Cas sitting, making the protection charms and other stuff that he gives to the hunters. The ones who still hunt, that is. He is just a few yards away from where Dean is working on a car he’s restoring- this one’s for pleasure, not business. They’re tossing casual barbs at each other and occasionally staring into each other’s eyes, the way they always had. They’re looking so good, though anything of course would be better from the last time Sam could see them. When they were all covered in blood and dust, so much of it their own.

With Gabriel’s eyes Sam can feel the contentment rolling languidly over them. There is worry there, yeah, and a bit of irritation but there’s no restlessness, no bitterness. They’re happy to be here, he thinks and feels his lips curve up involuntarily.

"I can’t see you," he tells Gabriel quietly, a lilt at the end making it a question.

Gabriel shrugs, Sam can feel it from where Gabriel’s leaning against his side, “Nope.” Even that can’t wipe the smile from him, though he feels a little wistful.

He leans down to brush a kiss against Gabriel’s lips and laughs when the disorienting difference between what he’s seeing and what is actually in front of him leads him to kiss Gabriel’s chin instead. When he straightens up, he’s still laughing and that’s when he sees Dean looking up at him with this baffled, happy expression on his face. 

"Thank you," Sam says to Gabriel and holds on to him as tightly as he can.