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[personal profile] rosivan
wordcount: ~9000
warnings: none!
summary: Gabriel is an avian who delights in messing around during other groups' air battles. Sam is a solo skypirate who saves him from being captured.

NOTES: I only wrote Gabriel.




Gabriel dropped, twisting his body into a dizzying corkscrew spin as he dove between the dropping masts of Lucifer's ship. Canon shots burst around him, flecks of metal and the dark dust of powder ricochetting off the tight protection of his wings. Gabriel didn't particularly like fighting - the bleeding, dying, broken bones and broken ships - he could do without it. However, he couldn't deny himself the fun of using the battleground as an obstacle course, yanking canons off the decks, dropping sails off into the open air, as if he'd freed a cloud. Gabriel had no side in this battle, he was en route to a sky colony with a letter from his brother, the king. He'd just stopped for a bit of fun on the way.

Sam loved nothing more than midair skirmishes in which he had no alliance. There was a certain freedom about scrambling from ship to ship with no distinction. He was mostly just fucking with people, swiping out at someone's rifle here, taking down a sail or two there. His own ship was docked in the shadow of Lucifer's massive ship, hidden from view. He'd noticed one particular avian who seemed to have no qualms about screwing over absolutely everyone in the fight, and he kept an eye on him, his tracking made easy by the avian's bright wings and tawny hair. Sam climbed his way up the mast of one of the ships - not Lucifer's, and not with any regulation flag - as the avian dove and freed half of the sail, leaving it to flap loosely, tied by one side. Sam fingered a knife free from his boot and swung out to cut the other half, then dropped neatly back to deck to watch the ship's crew scramble to retrieve it.

When Gabriel circled around to finish the job on the sail, he found that someone had done the job for him. He wove messily through the air, giving the canons something to shoot at while he examined the people on the deck of the ship. A boarding spear whizzed by him and Gabriel twisted out of the way with an alarmed noise. They were trying to hook him. Gabriel dove for the rope and hauled the spear up, a little more than annoyed with the persons the deck. He threw it back like a javelin before continuing on his way.

Sam leapt from one ship to the next with one of the sliced sail ropes, still with one eye on the neutral avian. He'd come close to being shot out of the air, but he was too quick for that, his wings powerful and subject to delicate control. Sam took out a cannon and watched in alarm as one of the ship's crew yelled something and turned his rifle upward, aiming for the airbound trickster. Sam neatly sliced a length of skin off his arm and rolled, taking another out at the knees. They turned their attention from the avian to him, four on one, and he took them down with relative ease before slipping over to dismantle another cannon.

There was a pirate following him, and that interested Gabriel enough to let him do so, watching as he fought other pirates without any apparentl allegiance. Renegade? Anger management? Gabriel was nothing, if not curious. He dropped down to the upper deck of the next ship and rolled neatly to his feet, wings half tucked and knife extended. The rudder and compass were on the helm, and Gabriel made a game of it - pirates with guns, over starboard, pirates with swords, over port.

Sam's avian dropped onto the deck of the ship next to his; Sam followed, flipping from one mast to the next and slithering down. He was halfway up deck to meet the guy when out of nowhere a net dropped on him. Sam startled, eyes narrowing, and spotted two men from the ship over holding the tying ropes. The net's cinched top closed, trapping the twisting avian. Sam switched course and dove back to the mast, which he scrambled up and crouched on, waiting.

Gabriel snarled, one high cry of protest in his people's language. He extended his wings as much as he could, giving himself enough room to buffet his weight back. The top railing hit the back of his knees, and Gabriel toppled backwards unconcerned. He sawed at the ropes, half swinging through the air as the pirates held him, furiously swearing to himself.

Sam swore, traversing the ship's mast in three steps and leaping onto the second. He went from there to Lucifer's and down, over the side of Lucifer's to his own ship. He rushed to the helm and fired the thrusters, waiting to snap the sails out. The ship pulled smoothly around, rising from under Lucifer's. Sam pulled to a direct halt under the avian and grabbed the rifle he kept on deck. He shot at the rope, missed twice and hit it on the third try. The net and its captive thudded onto Sam's ship; he snapped out the sails and set the thrusters on full, swaying the ship from side to side as the others fired on him.

Gabriel freed one arm from the fine-wired net and rolled across the deck when the ship moved. What the- And now he was being kidnapped. Gabriel rolled, attempting to avoid being shot at, but a puff of feathers exploded by his side, and a sharp, sudden fire burned on his skin. Gabriel cried out, hacking at the net with his sword. He was not going to die tied down!

Great, Sam hissed to himself as the avian screamed, trying in vain to cut through the net. He yelled back to him, something vague like stay down, stop moving, forced the ship's thrusters to take them. He needed to find somewhere to dock, at least for now. He turned the ship downward, toward the cover of clouds below them, and when the shriek of fire ceased around them, he set the wheel in place and went back to free the avian from his bindings.

Gabriel was caught on a canon. He'd attempted to make for the railing again, but the cut edges of the net twisted around the clockwork gears in the canon side. Gabriel squinted at it through the mesh, his free hand tearing at the individual wires. He could feel the footsteps of his captor, thumping across the deck. "Let me go," it wasn't a request, but it was a demand in vain.

"I am not the one who caught you," Sam said, sighing at him. He dropped down to one knee and sawed at the net with his knife, working on opening a hole on one side. After a few slices he stopped, frustrated. "Stop moving or I'll never get you loose."

Gabriel muttered something very impolite, but drew his legs close and extended his wings to give the net some tension for the man to work with. "But you're the one following me?" It was a guess.

Sam hummed affirmative, careful to avoid nicking the avian's wings as he sliced the net open from the captive's arm to behind him, opening a circle of it. He reached it, put a hand on the avian's shoulder to steady him. "Don't move," he said, cutting the wires that would catch on his wings. Once the net was severed he pulled back, nodding. "All right now."

Feathers unfurling as he stood, Gabriel hissed through the pain that came with completely stretching out. Beneath his jackets he could feel blood trickling down his side, but Gabriel ignored it in favour of examining his supposed-rescuer. "You knew I would get caught," he accused. Out of spite, he kicked the net away from them.

"You're making wild accusations," Sam countered, rolling his eyes. "You were neutral, I was neutral. I was interested. You're welcome, by the way, for saving your life."

Gabriel canted his head slightly and watched him as he spoke, making a few quick decisions before sweeping his wings flat, tucked in behind him unthreateningly. "I am Gabriel."

Sam watched the arching sweep of his wings with naked interest. "Sam," he offered, turning to go back to the helm of his ship. "I'm docking at ground. You're injured?"

With the pool of blood collecting below Gabriel, he felt like pointing out that it was a stupid question. "Yes. You're docking?"

"Yeah," Sam said, raising an eyebrow at him. "Relax, not at an actual port. I'm not stupid." He pulled the ship up as they broke cloud cover and descended toward the planet's lush forest. "Do me a favor and sit down before you fall down."

Gabriel eyed the forest nervously. He'd never been this close to ground before. His business was almost exclusive to sky cities, ships and everything in between. In a burst of strength that he probably shouldn't have used, Gabriel flew to the top of the ship's tallest mast and settled down in the platform among the scopes.

Sam turned to watch him before switching his attention to guiding the ship to ground. He nestled the ship down among the tallest parts of a few trees, in the center of a small hollow circle they made, and anchored, letting the thrusters cool. He leaned back against the side of his ship and tipped his head up, watching Gabriel. "Gonna come down so I can fix you?"

Some of the scopes were interesting, and Gabriel played with them to calm himself down. "I am not broken!" He called down, not bothering to peer over the edge.

Sam waved a hand at him and dug a hand into the inner pocket of his pants, withdrawing a small pack of hand-rolled mint cigarettes. He lit one and leaned back, breathing smoke out slowly and savoring the familiar burn of it. "Suit yourself. I'd rather you didn't bleed out all over my ship, please."

Gabriel peeled back the fabric of his coat with a soft sound and examined his wound. It looked...woundy. Gabriel had never been shot before. "Are you any good at it?"

"I haven't died yet, so."

Gabriel peeked over the edge at him. "Maybe you just haven't been hurt."

Sam smiled, breathing smoke out with his words. "Maybe."

Gabriel wanted to touch him, which wasn't an entirely expected response, but there was something about this man, wrapped in smoke and casual that drew Gabriel to him. He pushed out of the platform and glided down, landing a little shakily as his blood rushed. He felt as if he'd been flying for days on end. "Fine," Gabriel said, breathless.

Sam left his cigarette between his lips and reached out to steady Gabriel with a hand on his shoulder. "Take this off," he said, plucking at the sleeve and eyeing the blood already dripping off him. "What happened?"

"Someone shot me," Gabriel said, sounding a little more than offended. He peeled back his outer jacket and then the inside one, both of them held on by straps and ties, looping back to snap over his back. Gabriel did this, watching Sam's mouth with a softened gaze. "When I was on your deck."

"Sorry about that," Sam grunted, pushing Gabriel's jacket further back and examining the wound on his side. Gabriel was staring at his mouth, so Sam raised his eyebrows at him and offered the cigarette between two fingers, his other hand slowly feeling the edges of his injury.

Gabriel had no interest in participating with the cigarette. He leaned up, his mouth barely a whisper across Sam's, tasting the smoke on his lips before pulling back. Curiosity somewhat sated, Gabriel looked down to where Sam was tending to his wound.

Sam pulled back in surprise, blinking down into the avian's very gold eyes. There were certainly differences in avian and human culture; this was obviously one of them. "Yeah, you're welcome," he said, purposefully bitchy and prodding one of Gabriel's ribs. It flexed under his fingertips, hollow. "Come on below deck, I need supplies."

"I'll...wait here," Gabriel decided, hesitant. He pushed Sam's hand away, his expression tight.

Oh. Sam nodded, moving past him and dipping down into his quarters and the galley, where he stored his supplies. He fetched his medical kit and reappeared up on deck with a blanket. "Spread this out and lie down," he said, tossing it to Gabriel. He tossed what was left of his cigarette over the side of the ship and dug through the kit, searching for antiseptic.

Spreading the blanket out was easy, but Gabriel stared down at it, momentarily baffled. He laid out on his stomach, wings flapping a little as he settled, curled beneath them as if ready to sleep.

Sam turned back to him and found feathers where he expected skin. "I need you to move this," he said, prodding Gabriel's right wing. He soaked a rag in antiseptic. "And try not to smack me with it."

Gabriel looked at Sam out of the corner of his eye, but obediently raised the wing. He didn't smack Sam in the face with it, but the greeting tickle of feathers over his face as the wing rose wasn't completely unintentional.

Gabriel's wing passed over Sam's face, feathers brushing his cheeks with silky softness. Sam lifted one hand, trailing his fingertips through the feathers, then went to work, bathing Gabriel's wound and making sure all the blood was mopped away. "Sit up," he said, when it was clean, and fetched a long roll of wide gauze.

Gabriel shifted up with a little maneuvering and looked down at the broken skin of his side. Weird. "Why're you doing this?"

"Because I thought it would be fun." Sam unrolled the wrap and stretched it across Gabriel's chest. "Hold this." He pressed Gabriel's hand to the end of it.

Gabriel moved up on his knees so Sam could reach better and held the gauze in place as asked. His smile was slender and toothy at Sam's reply to his question. "Did you have fun? I had fun. Mostly."

Sam kept his eyes away from the spread of Gabriel's knees. "I had lots of fun," he said dryly. "Because I definitely got to steal all the booze I wanted to instead of helping some trapped avian."

"I didn't ask you to help."

"Yup." Sam finished wrapping him and leaned back to survey his work. "There. You shouldn't die, but let me know if you start feeling like you're going to."

Gabriel smoothed his hands over the bandage as he twisted, testing their range of motion. "I don't intend on staying long," he said, fixing Sam with his gaze.

Sam packed the kit away and left it there in favor of sitting, one knee drawn up. He lit another cigarette, yawning. "Didn't ask you to."

Gabriel shifted into a tailor's seat, wings folding behind him. "And you're just gonna let me go?"

"If I was gonna keep you, wouldn't I have left you in the net? You're a nervous thing." Sam yawned again, breathing smoke.

"Birds are wary of cages," Gabriel murmured. He stood, strapping himself back into his jackets, one careful snap at a time.

Sam hummed. "Do I look like someone who likes cages?"

"Not the way you swing from ship to ship~" Gabriel brushed a wing against Sam, then moved further away to lift himself experimentally in the air. Still a little dizzying.

Sam was surprised at all the wing-touching - he'd heard that avians were protective of their wings over their hearts. It was unspurising to him, really, as he watched Gabriel lift himself, no matter how unsteadily. "Come back down," he called to him. "You're going to pass out."

Gabriel glided once around the deck and circled back. "I have a message to deliver. Can't stay."

"If you die on the way to delivering your message it'll never get there. If you rest and then go, it'll be late, but it'll get there." Sam grinned lazily at him, like he didn't care at all. "Either way."

Gabriel contemplated the sky, judged how far he would have to go. "I'm never late." He bent to pick up the blanket that Sam had handed him and returned it to him. "But I don't have a spesific time to arrive either."

Sam bundled the blanket up and set it behind him. "So stay. Wasting those pretty wings would be a shame."

Gabriel's wings dropped enough for him to peer over his shoulder for a moment, smile sly. They rose again and Gabriel settled down on the deck, shrugging into their protection. "Think just my wings are pretty?"

"Want me to think otherwise?" Sam purred, smile curling on his lips. He left his cigarette between his lips, the taste of mint thick in his mouth.

"You should," Gabriel said, frank, but honest.

Sam's grin widened. "You have a high opinion of yourself, skylet."

"You disagree?" Gabriel smiled down at his folded hands.

"Never said I did." Sam curled an arm around his bent knee.

Gabriel made a pleased sound and stretched out on the deck. "Are you the only one on your ship?"

Sam nodded, watching Gabriel stretch himself out. He was pretty, all lean lines and sharpness. "I fly solo. Don't much like people, unless they have something to steal."

"Sounds lonely."

"You were solo too, skylet." Sam tipped his head back to rest on one of the vented covers of his cargo hold, breathing in slow.

"I was on a delivery," Gabriel protested, turning to face Sam.

Sam was staring at the sky. "Mmhmm. I like being on my own."

Gabriel moved closer in a soft burst of movement across the deck. "Sounds quiet," he said, almost distastefully.

"Isn't the sky quiet?"

"Not at all~" Gabriel settled down beside Sam, one knee up to his chest. "It's all rushing wind and things flying, and storms."

Sam felt Gabriel sink down next to him more than saw him; he moved the wind with him, and was distinctively cool as he settled. He reached over, lazily, and stroked the back of one of Gabriel's wings, just to see if it felt how he remembered.

Gabriel hummed and leaned closer, eyes lowered and curling over the smooth planes of Sam's face.

Sam laughed, low and smoky, and pressed his cigarette out against the metal grate, his fingers sifting through feathers. "Do all of you possess this lack of shame?"

Gabriel pulled in close, nuzzling the long line of Sam's neck. "What do you mean?"

"Never mind," Sam sighed, tilting his head to one side to allow Gabriel his room to play.

Gabriel licked once at the pulse point just under Sam's jaw and pulled back, still watching. He was often told by others of his kind that he should be a little more...conservative. Gabriel had never seen the point of doing so.

Sam slid his eyes down to follow Gabriel's movement. "I've never really spoken to an avian."

"Poor thing," Gabriel teased, gaze sharpening slightly. "Why not?"

"You tell me," Sam said, eyebrows raised. "I thought your people didn't like people without wings."

Gabriel shrugged a shoulder. "Only because you try to own a sky that's not yours to truly have."

Sam made a noise. "Do I."

Gabriel favoured him with a pointed look. "You fall off ships. I land on them."

"And where would you be if I hadn't scooped you up, huh?"

"Either in the sky or beyond," Gabriel said with a smile, wings cupping around them.

Sam laughed and tipped his head back, staring up into Gabriel's domain. "Dunno, skylet, looked a lot like you were gonna be in a net for a while."

"Or maybe the clouds would swoop down and carry it away from me!" Gabriel grinned, not really believing it despite his tone.

"Sure they would." Sam laid an arm over his eyes and yawned, lazy in the heat of the planet. "Are all your kind so tolerant of humans?"

"No," Gabriel said, wings arching above them. "Most hope humans drop out of the skies."

"Not you?"

"Some of them, maybe," Gabriel admitted, leaning in to peer close at Sam's face. "Not the interesting ones."

Sam blinked into Gabriel's golden eyes, air crackling from the avian's proximity. "I'm interesting, then, I take it."

"There's wind in your feathers," Gabriel said, distant for a moment, "It's interesting."

"I don't have feathers," Sam corrected, tapping under Gabriel's chin with two fingers.

Gabriel tipped his face up, smile curling. "I know. That's why it's interesting."

"You're strange," Sam complained, but gave in and traced the coquettish lilt of Gabriel's smile with a fingertip.

Gabriel hummed, pleased at the touch. His wings shifted back and up, restless while Gabriel pushed into Sam's hand, eyes on his face.

Sam pressed the pad of his finger into the dip just over Gabriel's chin. "Friendly thing," he finally sighed, and stood, eyeing the sun. Night would fall soon, within the hour. Sam trailed back across deck to the stairs leading below.

Gabriel ran his fingers along his chin, eyeing the dropping staircase and Sam as he made his way over to it. Resolutely, Gabriel turned his attention away and looked to the crow's nest instead.

Sam stopped at the head of the stairs and peered back at Gabriel. "Has someone caught you before?"

Gabriel shook his head, shifting into a crouch. "I've been netted, but never for long."

"And yet you won't come below my deck?"

There was hesitation in the way that Gabriel drew a breath and held it. "There's another exit?"

"No," Sam said, truthfully. "But I have a lot of shit to carry above deck if I'm going to sleep up here, and I would appreciate help."

The idea of only one possible exit from the lower deck was not a comfortable one. Gabriel looked away, down at his hands, clenched tight and shifting over his knees. "I..." He breathed, "I'll try."

Sam blinked. He hadn't expected the avian to agree in the slightest. "Huh," he said, and turned to drop below deck. He grabbed bedrolls from his quarters, leaving Gabriel to gather fruits and bread from the galley storage.

Gabriel ventured in carefully, hands out to the sides of the walls and moving slowly. His heart was pounding even before he was out of sight of the stairs, and he didn't notice how nervous he was until one of his fidgeting wings smacked into the wall. Gabriel hissed and drew them close, and concentrated on gathering the food that Sam had asked for.

The loud thump from the galley drew Sam from his quarters. He squinted into the relative darkness and realized Gabriel had smacked one of his wings. "Easy," he said lowly, swinging the two bedrolls onto his back and coming up behind Gabriel to lay a comforting hand on the leading edge of his wing. "These aren't as easy to fix."

Gabriel turned, the basket clutched to his chest as he looked up at Sam with a tight expression pasted on his face. He was quivering slightly and moved closer to Sam, crowding them both with feathers. "I want to go back now."

Sam could only stare at him for a long moment, the way he looked young, frightened, trapped. "All right," he murmured. He'd been all set to tease Gabriel, but after seeing his face... "All right." He stepped aside and touched Gabriel's shoulder, urging him up and outside.

Gabriel didn't quite run, but it was a close thing. When he burst out above deck, he sighed heavily, lifing himself off the deck. He landed a few feet away, slipping down into a seated position again, and eyed the stairs warily, wondering if Sam would make fun of him.

Sam emerged after him, carrying a few more things for dinner. He let the bedrolls thump down and eyed Gabriel. "I didn't realize it was that bad," he said by way of apology, and dropped down sit by him.

Gabriel counted it as a victory that he didn't throw up this time. Or cry. He passed over the basket and stole one of the bedrolls for himself. "I do not like it."

"That was obvious." Sam unrolled his own bedroll, piling extra blankets out, then flopped down and stole one of the sweet starfruit Gabriel had brought up.

Gabriel made a face at Sam, annoyed. He'd tried. He picked at a chunk of bread, curiously watching Sam eat his fruit.

Sam sighed at the face. "So is it just because you couldn't see the sky...?"

"I don't like being trapped."

"Mm. Try this," Sam said, diverting. He cut the starfruit in half and handed some over to Gabriel.

Gabriel examined the fruit, licking at the flesh towards the centre before deeming it acceptable. He bit into it and nodded, smiling at Sam.

Sam took bread for himself and absently reached out to touch Gabriel's feathers. "What message were you off to deliver?"

Gabriel wing curled within easy reach for Sam, like Gabriel hadn't even noticed. "It's from my brother, to a skycity near by."

Sam trailed his fingers through the feathers, mesmerized by their softness. "Your brother?"

Gabriel hummed happily and licked the sweet starfruit juice from his fingertips. "My oldest brother."

"Who is?" Sam laughed, flicking juice at him. "Do I have to pull even the smallest answer from you?"

Gabriel tried to catch the drops on his tongue, grinning. "Michael," he said easily. The avian king, known as the Swordhand for his ruthless policies.

Sam's gaze sharpened as he reached for another fruit, body language casual. "That's not... King Michael Michael, is it?"

Gabriel scratched lazily along his thigh, ready to pull his sword if he had to. "I just call him Michael."

"You're his brother?"

"Gabriel, the Messenger," he reintroduced himself. He had some other silly title, like Stronghold or something, but he didn't really like it all that much and had made up a new one.

"Since when does royalty mess with human airship skirmishes?" Sam asked blithely, passing a hunk of bread over.

Gabriel tossed a bit of it at Sam's face, just for calling him royalty even though that's what he was. "I was passing through."

Sam hummed out a laugh and stroked Gabriel's wing. "Shouldn't you be in some sky-palace, eating grapes?"

Gabriel relented a little and leaned into Sam. "That's boring."

"I like you," Sam told him frankly, and leaned into him in return. "Not my style either."

"Well, this is your sky palace, isn't it?" Gabriel offered a bit of starfruit, eyes glimmering with humour.

Sam licked the fruit from between Gabriel's fingers, pleased that he hadn't picked up on Sam's slip. "You could say."

Gabriel crawled into Sam's lap with a slow smile, head canted to the side. "Yours is a quiet kingdom, always on your own."

Gabriel's sudden weight made Sam lean back. He pressed his hands to Gabriel's hips, holding him steady. "You're here," he corrected quietly, thumbs pressing in at the dips just above Gabriel's hipbones.

Gabriel curled his fingers over the collar of Sam's shirt and drew light symbols on his skin. "You like being alone," he reminded, "I have a message to deliver."

"So leave," Sam said, whisper-soft, but it was a dare, his fingers pressing in smooth succession along Gabriel's hips.

Gabriel slid forward, pressing up against him, arms going high and chin on Sam's chest. "Not yet~"

Sam smoothed a hand up the small of Gabriel's back, breath going short as he waited to see what the avian would do. "You have too many clothes on," he finally murmured, tugging at a strap.

"Undo them," Gabriel purred. His wings lifted out of the way and he arched back over Sam's hand, putting himself on display.

"Ridiculous," Sam growled at him, mostly because he was really, really turned on from the smooth arch of Gabriel's body. He pushed his free hand inside Gabriel's jacket and reached up, undoing clasps and buckles, stroking bits of skin between.

Gabriel squirmed, softly sighing, and slithered out of his jackets. Silk and brocade dropped around them, and smiled at Sam, eager to please.

Sam petted him from collarbone to stomach, fingertips trailing over his gauzy skin. "Are you all this forward?"

"You can't base my people solely on me," Gabriel told him, making light noises and tangling his fingers in Sam's jacket lapels so he could dip further back.

"You're showing off," Sam told him, not at all displeased. He ran his finger down Gabriel's breastbone. "Aren't you worried I've lured you here for my own purposes?"

"You're looking," Gabriel purred, squirming under the attention. He rolled forward, peering at Sam's face as if trying to see into his thoughts. "Yes. And no."

Sam half-closed his eyes just to tease, fingers wiggling upward. "Yes and no?"

Gabriel twisted in, as if leaning closer could let him look under Sam's half-gaze. "Yes, because I'm not stupid, and no, because I think you truly meant to save me."

"Do you." Sam laid him down on the deck, one hand dipping to rest on a knee. "I thought your people were flighty."


Gabriel pouted slightly at the joke, wings shifting into more comfortable positions beneath him. "Yeah, and your people are supposed to be down to earth."

Sam grinned at him. "I'm not down to earth?" He rubbed the flat of Gabriel's belly, watching him.

Gabriel made a surprised sound and stretched out. He sighed happily and his wings curled up around them. "Your palace is an airship~"

Sam said vaguely. He shifted Gabriel's legs off his lap and turned to stretch out next to him, mindful of his wings.

It was like now that Gabriel had been allowed to crawl into Sam's lap, there was some sort of need to keep the trend going. He curled against Sam's side, wings flapping a little when the arranged out behind him.

Sam glanced down in surprise as Gabriel curled against him like a cat. "Aren't you leaving?" he murmured, dipping an arm under Gabriel's neck to rest his head on.

Gabriel turned and mouthed along Sam's arm where his head rested. "After I sleep," he promised.

"And what will I do then?"

"What do you usually do?"

"So your plan," Sam said, "is to get me all riled up and then leave?"

"I was rather hoping," Gabriel suggested dryly, "You'd make use of that pent-up energy before I left."

Sam patted his shoulder. "Sorry, kid, I don't do one-night stands."

That surprised Gabriel. He rubbed his fingers over Sam's arm and asked, "You're sure~?"

"I'm sure," Sam chuckled, rubbing his fingers up the leading edge of one wing. "I mean, if you were sticking around - but both of us fly solo, it seems."

Gabriel's wing withdrew slightly and fluttered out of reach. "You would cage me," he accused, slightly hurt.

Sam huffed out a sigh. "I would want you to come back."

Gabriel's eyes were guarded as he thought about it. "To stay. Always stay."

"Not always. You forget I'm a lone one too."

Gabriel's wings eased back into reach, relaxing from their readiness to burst into flight. "I could come back again."

Sam smoothed his hand up the back of Gabriel's wing. "You don't know me," he told Gabriel, a little teasing.

Gabriel huffed and rolled so his wings were a barrier between them. "You make no sense."

"No?" Sam leaned up on one elbow, breathing over the bared flats of Gabriel's wings.

Gabriel shivered hard, but shuffled peculantly away. "No."

Sam followed after, tangling his fingers in Gabriel's feathers. "Just observing your habit of meeting sky-pirates and getting up close and personal."

"I don't," Gabriel grumbled, cocooning himself with his wings.

"You did with me." Sam stroked one of his wings, wiggling his fingers into delicate spaces between feathers.

Gabriel crooned softly and shift-stretched out despite wanting to be angry with Sam. "You're not plural."

Sam laughed, sifting Gabriel's wings apart to find where they met the skin of his back. "You make no sense either."

Gabriel shuddered hard and pushed himself away from Sam. "Not sky pirates, sky pirate." He pushed himself to his feet and shook out his wings, unsettled and confused.

Gabriel seemed suddenly very young, and Sam let him go, lying back on one arm and watching the shadows melt in around the avian. "Gabriel," he ventured quietly, when there was no movement.

Quietly, "What."

"What's wrong."

"I'm sleeping now," Gabriel said, lacking a better excuse, "Shh."

"You're standing up."

"Makes me look like I'm on guard. It's sneaky."

"Gabriel," Sam huffed. "What's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong," Gabriel snapped, frowning at himself. Things were far less complicated when he didn't try to make moves on skypirates.

Sam blinked at him, affronted. "Fine then," he muttered, snatching up another starfruit and sinking his teeth into it.

Gabriel pushed off from the deck and climbed through the air to the crow's nest. He settled inside among the blinking scopes and curled up with his face tipped towards the sky.

Sam gave him an hour or so, until the sun had vanished and drenched the surrounding forest in darkness. He went around lighting the small candles built into the sides of the deck, ten or so, enough to light the deck itself. When everything was lit, he packed some fruit into a little burlap sack and climbed the mast to crouch on the edge of the crow's nest, one hand tangled in a sail's rope.

Gabriel was sleeping, hair swept over his face by the light wind. He mumbled in his sleep, soft clipped syllables and shifts of his wings.

Sam dropped one leg down, stepping lightly into the nest. He crouched down and put a hand on Gabriel's shoulder, shaking him gently. "Gabriel. Up," he said, more insistent, when a cool breeze drifted past.

Gabriel snapped awake, eyes wide in the darkness as he looked up at Sam. "What's wrong?" He asked and then glanced out, over the sides of the platform.

"Nothing's wrong." Sam rubbed his thumb along Gabriel's shoulder and pulled back. "It's too cold for you to sleep up here, come on."

Gabriel rubbed his hands over his bared arms - he'd forgotten he'd stripped down earlier. "Where?"

Sam slid back out to the edge. "Down on deck, I brought more blankets out."

"Mm." Gabriel stepped closer and slid his arms tightly around Sam's middle before lifing them both into the air. He hummed lightly to himself and made a single drifting circle before setting them both down on the deck.

The sudden weightlessness felt like diving from mast to mast, like swinging off one ship's deck to the other. Sam set a hand on Gabriel's shoulder as they landed, the beating of Gabriel's wings rippling air smoothly across his skin. "Didn't think you'd be able to do that."

Gabriel leaned into Sam almost unintentionally, gulping a breath of air as discreetly as he could manage. "No?" He blinked the spots from his eyes.

Sam pressed his hand to the top of Gabriel's head, indicating his size. "So you're not sulking anymore?"

"I...wasn't sulking."

"Then...?"

"I was sleeping." It sounded weak to Gabriel even as he said it.

Sam narrowed his eyes and tapped under Gabriel's chin. "You're a bad liar."

Gabriel shrugged one shoulder, smiling brightly up at Sam.

"...Gabriel."

"Sam," Gabriel said in response, borrowing the tone.

Sam rolled his eyes and padded over to the bedrolls and blankets he'd laid out. He stripped his shirt and undershirt off and sat to unlace his boots, still eyeing Gabriel. "How old are you, again?"

Gabriel swooped over in one smooth glide and flopped in the middle of the blankets. "Eight," he said, watching Sam's fingers as he worked the laces.

"Eight?" Sam echoed, fingers stilling on his laces. "Like. Years?"

Gabriel blinked up at him. "Birthings."

Sam had a mild inward panic attack. "Explain."

"Under my father's rule, I was the eigth born."

Still blank. "So can you convert this to years or...?"

"How long is a year?"

"Three hundred and ixty-five days?"

Gabriel made a face. "Why three-sixty-five?"

Sam sighed at him. "I didn't make the number, skylet."

He was quiet for a moment, thinking about the number of days in a year. Gabriel had no idea how many days he'd been alive, and settled on saying, "Twenty seasons of snowfall."

"Oh." Sam relaxed back, returning to stripping his laces. "Much better."

"Why?"

"Because eight years is a child, Gabriel. Twenty is adolescent, young adult."

"....oh." Gabriel said softly. He played with the blankets around him, rearranging them.

Sam tilted his head, then reached over and pulled Gabriel's foot into his lap. "How long do yours live?"

"Forever," Gabriel said promptly, and let Sam take his foot. "If they are well."

"Forever?" Sam unlaced Gabriel's boot and slid it off, stole his other foot. Something flashed in his eyes and he shook it away. "Curse, that is."

Gabriel wiggled his stocking-covered toes at Sam. "Why? Some choose to fall from the sky."

"Forever is a curse," Sam told him frankly, and flipped over to lie down. He tossed the burlap sack of fruit into Gabriel's lap. "You should eat more."

"Not hungry," Gabriel complained, even though he poked through the bag again. "And forever ends at gunpoint, you know. Or swords. Whatever."



---



Gabriel took longer than he expected to, mostly because he'd annoyingly been given a message to take back to Michael. There weren't any battles on the way back to his brother's house, much to his dissapointment and by the time he arrived he was thoroughly grumpy. He took off almost immediately, sailing out into the night without really knowing where he was going.

In the back of his mind, he knew who he was looking for, of course, but dammed if he was going to admit that. Gabriel followed the wind, backtracking a little bit and dropping down to lower cloud cover.

Sam never stayed in the same place for more than a couple days, mostly because he hated being stuck in places, hated being grounded. There were also, of course, people whose good sides Sam hadn't quite gotten on, and staying in the same place made him easy to track.

He didn't go far, a few hundred miles, mostly keeping to a jagged path somewhere far behind Gabriel, aimless and mostly wandering. He put down anchor higher at the same level as before, near the trees, and lit the lamps scattered over the deck of his ship. He knew it was ridiculous to assume that Gabriel would come back. They didn't often interact with humans; humans were another form of tying, of grounding. Gabriel seemed different, though. Unconventional. So Sam put down anchor and half-wondered as he made dinner if he'd see the avian's return.

After a while it occured to Gabriel to drop even lower, down below the clouds, and though the idea made him nervous, he did. He was on his own and he didn't like the idea of being grounded in any form, because the last place anyone would look for him would be in a tree. Or sky forbid, the earth.

Gabriel was rewarded, however, and saw a ship lit in the near-dark. It was smaller, and quiet, which was either very good news or very bad news for Gabriel. He approached carefully, coasting silent as possible.

Sam had stretched out on the deck, a flask of alcohol leaning on his hip and his dinner mostly gone. He was loose with the liquor and tired, dozing when the wind calmed. He didn't catch sight of the shadow overhead, the disturbance in the air not enough to wake him.

Gabriel circled carefully and landed softly in the shadows by the railing. He peered over at the man on the deck, ever-careful as his brothers had taught him, even though he was certain it was Sam. Gabriel whistled softly through his teeth, gaze darting to look around him.

The whistle was out of place enough to stir him. Sam's eyes snapped open, his spread fingers twitching on his stomach. The lightness of step and lack of heavy breath made him think his visitor wasn't human, but there was no such thing as too careful, not when he lived alone.

Gabriel didn't emerge. He couldn't quite get a full glimpse of Sam's face in the light and he wanted to see his expression before Gabriel would step out. Gabriel shook out his wings, the heavy sound of it too distinct to be any regular bird.

"Gabriel," Sam said, sure now. He sat up, turning to face the shadows, trying to find where the noise had come from. "You're there?"

And there he was. Gabriel smiled, leaning out into the light, but ready to take flight again if something wasn't going right. "Sammy~"

Sam pushed himself to his feet, grinning as he spotted the avian, his pretty white wings shaken out around him. "You're back," he repeated, surprised.

Gabriel moved closer, feeling awkward probably for the first time in a very long time. "I delievered my message."

"Yes," Sam said, momentarily lost for words. Avians didn't ground themselves. They didn't. He stood awkwardly, then waved a hand and gave Gabriel a wide smile. "You have to be hungry. C'mon."

Gabriel crossed the rest of the distance, wings shifting nervously as he settled down. He poked through the food even though he wasn't hungry. He generally wasn't hungry. What am I doing here he wondered abruptly.

Sam sat down beside him and pulled a cigarette from his silver case, lighting the end and watching the smoke curl into the stars as Gabriel picked at his food. "Are you troubled?"

Gabriel shook his head, picking out a starfruit. He wondered if maybe Sam had only been nice about saying 'oh sure come back'. He liked being alone. It made sence.

The mint burned at the back of Sam's throat, opening his head up, loosing the hold of the alcohol. He leaned closer, tipping Gabriel's chin up with two fingers. He had grown so used to living without company that he had forgotten, until Gabriel, what company was like. "What is it?"

The little touch loosened a knot forming in Gabriel's chest. "You never thought I'd actually come back, did you."

"You're an avian," Sam said, shrugging. "You don't come back."

Gabriel leaned away from him, shifting the startfruit from hand to hand. "Oh."

Sam blinked. Had he said the wrong thing? He leaned away, licking the taste of mint from his lips, cigarette smoldering between his fingers. "I wanted you to."

Oh. Gabriel abandoned the fruit and surged forward, practically crawling onto Sam. A smile threatened to split his face, because jesus Gabriel needed to hear things like that. "It seemed like you didn't."

Sam dropped back, taking Gabriel's weight. He pressed his cigarette between his lips and wrapped his arms around Gabriel, pulling him in close. "Did it?" he asked, rubbing his hand up the avian's back in apology.

Gabriel's wings stretched out and resettled and Gabriel smoothed his fingers along the slope of Sam's neck. "Thought you were just being nice," he muttered, breathing the mint smoke in.

"I don't 'just be nice'," Sam laughed, offering the cigarette when he felt Gabriel's ribs expand with his deepening breaths. "Your company isn't so terrible."

Gabriel made a face at his last comment, but leaned forward to wrap his lips around the cigarette offered to him. He breathed in slow and pulled away quickly when the taste of ash pinched his throat. The mint was nice, but Gabriel preferred to smell it on Sam and in the air.

Sam laughed, licking the corner of Gabriel's lips. "Takes getting used to," he said, taking a long drag and leaning back, sprawling out over the deck again.

"I like it better when you do it," Gabriel told him, his hands slid down to play with the straps of Sam's coat.

"Mm, I imagine you do." Sam caught Gabriel's wrist and played his fingers over it. "How was your brother?"

"Grouchy," Gabriel sighed, and traced over Sam's knuckles with his free hand. "I assume you're talking about Michael."

Sam wiggled his fingers. "Of course." He tucked his free arm behind his head. "I know nothing about avian politics, so."

Gabriel licked the taste of mint from Sam's fingers as he hummed thoughtfully. "I'm next in line for the throne if nothing comes of Michael's nestings. The arch decides when, but nestings always produce heirs so I don't pay attention to politics either."

"You?" Sam binked at him, watching his golden eyes. "Don't you want the throne?"

Gabriel blinked back at him, feathers shifting. "No," he said simply. "He spends more time in a chair than in the sky."

Sam was quiet for a time, smoking and watching Gabriel. Then, quieter, "Do you know John Winchester?"

"He wouldn't take my messages," Gabriel told Sam, disgruntled, but reluctantly added, "But he didn't trust other Kings after his wife died."

Sam hummed at the sky. "My name is Sam. Winchester."

Gabriel canted his head, sliding down to lie over top of him. "He had a son?"

"He has two." Surprised at the touch, Sam opened his body, wrapping one arm loose around Gabriel. "Me and Dean."

"Twins?" Gabriel asked curiously. He'd heard it wasn't as common among humans.

Sam shook his head. "He's four years older. Dad wanted me to be heir, though."

Gabriel rested his hands on folded arms over Sam's chest. "'Wanted'."

"Well, that was before I took off." Sam twirled Gabriel's bangs between his fingers.

Gabriel smiled and let his eyes drift half shut. "Now you just fly around?"

"Yup." Sam raised an eyebrow at him. "You're awfully calm about all this."

"Is it a big deal?"

"Most people seem to think so."

"Why?" Gabriel asked, genuinely curious.

Sam smothered a grin and thumbed at the corner of Gabriel's mouth. "Telling people I'm royalty tends to freak them out. Guess you're used to it."

Gabriel nipped at Sam's thumb and half shrugged. "I'm an heir, you're an heir." He nuzzed at Sam's chest. "We can fly away together."

It was hard to tell whether Gabriel was being serious, or teasing, so Sam dragged Gabriel closer to kiss him, hand smoothing along his back. "Like that story," he said when he pulled away, lifting his cigarette to his lips. "The one about the rival families and their children."

Gabriel made a pleased noise and melted against Sam. He pouted a little when the attention transferred to the cigarette. "Where the princess turns out to be a man when the prince marries her?"

"No," Sam laughed. "That other one. Juliet and something. I can't remember, it's old."

"Older than me, then," Gabriel smiled. He reached out and tugged on a lock of Sam's hair. He jumped topics, shifting in place. He'd decided earlier that he wouldn't promise, but he'd at least tell Sam that, "I can't stay with you all the time. But I'll come back."

That was certainly more than most humans got from random avian companions. Sam kissed Gabriel's forehead, hand lingering on his back. "I thought you didn't want to be tied down."

"That's not tied down," Gabriel murmured, squirming closer and wings fluttering. It was the same sort of promise he had with Michael - deliver his messages (the important ones anyway) and fly as he pleased.

"Do avians often return to humans?" Sam asked, not trying to prod, just curious. He trailed his fingers through Gabriel's feathers, stroking and twirling them.

If (when) Michael found out, it wouldn't be an easy conversation. "Hardly ever," Gabriel told him. Most viewed such a thing as shameful.

Sam pulled back to look him in the face. "What will your family say?"

Gabriel made an indifferent noise and turned to rub his cheek over Sam's chest. "'Stop'."

Of course. "Gabriel," Sam muttered. He rubbed between Gabriel's wings, letting him do as he pleased. "This isn't safe for you."

"Isn't safe for you either," Gabriel pointed out. It wouldn't be safe for the both of them, especially if they were caught together - two runaway princes, an avian and human shacking up.

Sam's eyes slid away. "Your people are stricter than mine, Gabriel."

"Jumping into skybattles aren't safe either," Gabriel muttered as he leaned up onto his elbows to eye Sam.

"You have an argument for everything," Sam said, trying to sound annoyed. He failed miserably and stubbed out his cigarette instead, hauled himself to his feet. "Blow out the lanterns for me, I'm going to get blankets."

Gabriel slid off Sam, letting him get up. Once Sam had gone below deck, he lifted himself into the air and coasted around the deck, blowing out candles with soft gusts of wind from his wings. He circled back and waited by railing for Sam.

Sam hauled up bedrolls and blankets from below deck (and he totally hadn't been keeping an extra rolled for Gabriel) and spread them out in the center of the ship. Once he was done, he glanced up to where Gabriel was, leant back against the railing, wings arching out over him. "Tired?"

Gabriel went over and curled down in the middle of the blankets and looked up at Sam. "I could nap."

Sam blinked down at him, his eyes going a little soft at the edges. He draped a blanket over Gabriel and lay down next to him, pulling the edges of the other blankets in around them. "You're young," he said quietly, like he was just realizing. Which, in a sense, he was.

Gabriel shifted around and turned into the space between them, eyes trying to stay pinned on Sam's face in the dark. "To my people, I am." Michael had implied, however, that Gabriel would stay young-hearted forever. It wasn't such a bad-sounding idea to Gabriel.

Sam turned on his side, reached up to stroke a wing. "Maybe young isn't the right word," he decided, watching Gabriel's face, his expression.

Gabriel pushed his wing into Sam's hand and shifted onto his stomach as he normally would to sleep. "What d'you mean?"

"Different," Sam said dismissively. He turned on his stomach as well and laid his head on a folded arm, his right hand lingering on Gabriel's back. "How long are you staying?"

Gabriel shifted uncomfortably and ignored Sam's question. "What do you mean, 'different'?"

"Innocent." It was the closest approximation. Sam rubbed Gabriel's back, trying to relax him.

"I'm-" Gabriel paused in mid-sentence and really thought about it. Was he? Maybe by human standards, whatever they were? "Hrngh," he decided on instead, and shuffled over to curl against Sam.

Sam drew him in close and draped an arm around him, tightening the blankets. "It's a good thing," he muttered into Gabriel's hair. "And a rare thing."

"You like it~" Gabriel half-purred, pleased to discover such a thing. He pressed his face into Sam's skin and slotted his legs through his.

"I do." Sam licked at the shell of Gabriel's ear and drew him closer, relaxing down around him. "Sleep, hmm?"

It was still strange to sleep pressed so close to Sam, but Gabriel only thought of warm gusts of wind and summer flights with his brothers. He had yet to be jolted back to the moments during that cave-in, not so long ago. "For now," Gabriel murmured, and let his eyes drop closed.





end.
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