Summary: Squaring up is hard to do - moreso outside of the species. Gabriel wants to get married, properly married, with two wives and a husband all properly aligned. And all he needs to do is get Sam and Jess to let him, a sub-adult blue, into their relationship, and then find a suitable red-moiety female angel who'll agree to the arrangement. Simple, right?
Wordcount: 25,140
Notes: Thanks to [personal profile] hannah for lots of patience and excellent beta'ing, and to [ profile] kdheart for a gorgeous cover image.

Quatrain cover image, blue and red feathers, sheet music in the background

Gabriel was standing in front of a mirror in a surprisingly large lavatory, trying to get his feathers settled—the security guards had been entirely too personal and since he hadn't been able to determine their moieties, he was more than a little rattled—when Sam put his head in.

The big red-man huffed and asked, "Are you all right?"

Gabriel rolled his eyes and flapped his wings in a rude gesture.

Sam snorted. "Yeah, that was ridiculous. You need help?"

"Yes, get Jess in here."

"What? No, this is the men's, Gabriel, she can't come in here!"

"She's blue, she can help me groom my wings—"

"I can help," Sam said, and got right up near Gabriel. "Turn around."

Gabriel chirruped in surprise, but spun around and unfurled his wings a bit, and tried to ignore the utter proximity of Sam as he tried finger-smoothing his twisted secondaries into place; the guards had twisted some of the feathers into lying uncomfortably when they'd gotten personal. He startled and flared a bit when Sam began smoothing his upper coverts.

"You're one off on your buttons," Sam said.

"What? Where?"

"Hold still," Sam said, and put his hand on Gabriel's back, on his brood patch, right between his wings. Gabriel managed not to choke or warble, but just held very still as Sam urged him to lift his left wing and proceeded to unbutton the placket holding his suit jacket together under his wing, reset it, and button it correctly.

"Good. C'mon, they’re going to call you to testify soon."

Gabriel watched Sam leave the room in the mirror, then splashed water onto his face. Wiping water off his chin, Gabriel hoped the flush would fade before he had to go in front of the committee—it had been years since a red, man or woman, had flirted with him like that, and he really had no idea what to do about it. After all, Sam was human and Gabriel remembered how badly that could turn out.

Gabriel in front to the House subcommittee overseeing research funding was collected and concise, and presented extremely well. Being a minor celebrity didn't hurt, either, since the congressional reporters were almost guaranteed getting their coverage out there – humans could be really odd about what they cared out, and Gabriel's history as the first angel successfully raised from young childhood by humans still made him of interest to the news when he decided to speak publicly.

Sam was glad that his responsibilities was mainly supplying supporting information about angels, angel research, angel populations, and the medical, scientific, and hunting advances that came from angel research. He just had to sit at the table, supply supplemental documents, and answer the very occasional technical question that a hunter-archivist would be the best to answer.

Gabriel, on the other hand, had to come off as poised, articulate, and worthy, and only once had to deflect one of the representative's frankly insulting remarks about the angelic gift of prophecy – which wasn't even definitively proven, speaking. Angels might have a psychic ability to foretell the future or it might just be that they were a lot better than humans are long-term risk assessment. Given that angels lived about twice as long, it wasn't unbelievable that they would better wired for planning for decades and centuries. Long ago angels that had been held as oracles and sybils to take advantage of their ability, whatever its mechanism; to ask a modern angel for a fore-telling, even in a minor and indirect way, was pretty insulting.

The fact that Gabriel's feathers had all puffed up at the questions before he smoothly deflected was indicative of just how pissed off it had made him. Sam wondered how much sugar the angel would want after they finished their testimony, and how annoyed Jess would be at Gabriel for gorging to sooth his nerves. The Center kept trying to get Gabriel's eating habits on an even keel, and he kept spinning off into the disordered eating he'd learned as a child. They'd made so many mistakes from ignorance, and the repercussions kept echoing. At least nowadays, with more knowledge of angels, it was unlikely to happen again.

Jess founded them in one of the lower galleries of the Smithsonian behind the red castle, a long hallway with almost no visitors, and that suited her fine. In their dark suits, they could have been any two government workers taking the afternoon off to walk through a gallery, if you ignored that one was an angel. Gabriel had his wings hunched, like he'd mantle and squawk at any moment, not folded flat and calm. It must have been a bad day in front of the committee. Gabriel was good with humans, the best of the Center’s resident angels at dealing with humans – both the numbers they came in and the way they acted that was contrary to proper angel behavior – but even he was frazzled.

"How'd things go?" she asked as she came up to them, kissing Sam on the cheek.

"Fine," Gabriel said tersely. He’d pulled his sound-blocking headphones off when he'd caught sight of her, so he was willing to put up with what had to be for him an awful lot of background noise to talk to her. That meant the day couldn't have been too impossible, or Gabriel would have had those things all but welded over his ears, instead of dangling around his neck. She wondered if being underground meant that the innumerable and maddening sounds of a city were blocked, or if it made the acoustic waves that traveled through the earth – the infrasound that angels called 'earthsong' and used to orientate themselves – easier to listen to, or both.

She looked at Sam, who shook his head.

"As well as we could’ve expected. A couple of the members asked some questions that Gabriel didn't like —"

"I am not a prophecy jukebox," the angel snapped.

"—but we kept on message and presented a persuasive case for continuing to fund the Center," Sam continued.

"If they’re willing to be persuaded?" Jess surmised. Jess hoped the politicians had listened. That was part of the reason Gabriel had testified – an angel making a case for funding the Appalachian and Palo Alto Angel Research Centers was hard to dismiss out of hand.

"Yeah," Sam said. He shook back his hair in a familiar gesture. He wasn't as hopeful as he was putting out, and Jess didn't like that. The Center wasn't riding entirely on the committee, but their findings would help secure long-term funding for another decade or a half. If the committee found the their mission compelling, that was.

"Feel like getting something to eat?" Jess asked, and tug Sam by his elbow. "I heard about a good restaurant just over on 10th and F street."

"Oh?" Sam asked.

"Can we stop at a cupcake shop?" Gabriel cut in.

Jess paused, a bit embarrassed that she'd started flirting with Sam and forgot about Gabriel.

"Have you eaten anything today?" she asked the angel.

"A couple of Twix bars."

Sam held up seven fingers. "And a stick of jerky."


"I was nervous!"

"You eat like a toddler," Jess said. A child who'd been a picky eater and had been allowed to eat as much of the foods zie had liked in the desperate hope that they were enough nutrition for zir – Gabriel's caretakers had only had a minimal idea of what was a normal diet for angels when he was found (and had been entirely ignorant of angelic gender and childhood lack of the same), and the learning curve had been steep. At least Castiel hadn't developed the same disordered eating; on the other hand, Castiel was even more socially maladjusted for an angel.

The angel wilted, his wings hanging down in guilt. "I'm hungry."

"Two entrees at the restaurant, but one has to be mostly vegetables," Jess said.

Gabriel looked put out at that requirement, but Jess knew she'd catch hell from Visyak if Gabriel came back to the Center with a sky-high blood sugar in addition to ketosis, which would happen if he kept choosing his own meals like this. He was terrible at regulating his own diet, a product of no one knowing what they were doing when he was being raised in the lab back in the 1950s. At least they knew how to make sure the younger angels at the Center had balanced eating habits now, instead of Gabriel's terrible ones.

Once they found the place, they'd gotten a table with no problem in spite of no reservation in the middle of the dinner rush. They'd been sat in the window, predictably enough; dining out with an angel was often an experience, when it wasn't an ordeal. It was only back in Aimes Ferry, where the older angels patronized the local businesses as a matter of course, that people didn't stare. At least in DC, people were used to celebrities and politicians popping up in unlikely places, and managed to keep their stares short and mostly discrete. The restaurant Jess's friend had recommended was a tiny place not more than a few blocks from the Mall and not too far from their hotel either. There wasn't much space between tables, but the staff had shoved things around so that Gabriel could sit comfortably, tucked into a corner with clearance for his folded wings while still being visible from the street.

He ordered lamb brains and blood sausage instead of the plate of grilled vegetables and some fish that Jess had suggested—Sam didn't like the gross-out factor, but one look at Jess's pursed lips said that Gabriel was probably crashing from his sugar rush and needed the fat and protein more than he needed the greens Jess still wanted to stuff into him.

Sam was glad that he was a hunter-archivist who worked with angel issues sometimes, not an xenologist like Jess. Gabriel was a more than a bit of prima donna, and many of the angels at the Center were vaguely hostile to human requests, even if it meant stopping demon incursions; the only angel reliably interested in hunting was Castiel, and he was running around the country with Dean, apparently perfectly happy to pursue the harsh nomadic life that Sam had left as soon as he was old enough to make his own choices.

Jess found Gabriel sitting up in the hotel suite's living room late that night, watching some half-baked conspiracy theory show.

"I'd square with you, if you'd have me."

Jess stared at the angel, looking tired and alone in his suit pants and undershirt, his shoes missing and his feet bare and oddly vulnerable.

"What? Why?"

"I like you, Jess, and you and Sam are sweet pair together; but you need stability, and three flying vee is better than two together and one alone."

There really weren't any good places to have a discussion with a friend about how he wanted in on your marriage in town, Jess thought. Especially not neutral ones that weren't the house or the Center. One of the roadside bars where the main draw was cheap beer and an awful music selection was considered, but in the end it was the lookout above town, on a hillside opposite the Center.

Jess parked her Scout and claimed one of the picnic tables. The air was brisk, and the meadow was mixed brown and new spring green as plants began sprouting in the warming weather, but it was chilly enough Jess still wore her puffy down vest.

Aimes Ferry itself was spread across the bottom of the valley, and the Center crept up the hill on the far side. The property the Appalachian Angel Research Center sat on was extensive, from the hilltop and down to the Center proper, and then down to the bottom land where the stands of rivercane grew. It was a slice of mountainside, extensive and an enormous expense in property taxes and upkeep, but everything was needed for the angels to live properly.

The high meadow just below the crest of the hill was not accessible from anything but the drive from the rest of Center, because it was where the angels left their dead. If it had been accessible from the road, or by any means that didn't go past the Center's security, they'd have even more trouble from grave robbers than they had. As it was, the funeral meadow had such strong wards on it that even Sam's brother Dean had been impressed upon seeing them. And concertina wire was strung along the top of the fence that encircled it – a mundane protection to reinforce the magical ones.

The angel house, looking like a froth of bubbles where it sat above the Center's main buildings, was a sturdy concrete building from the 70s. Even though it looked bizarre, it was actually extremely well-designed for the angels, with lots of natural light, an open interior, and plenty of wide balconies and patios for alighting on. It didn't look dated, so much as a bizarre, since the architect responsibly had been bleeding edge back when it was built, and his designs had never set standards, though the angels really liked them and had kept him in commissions that decade.

Below it was the iron picket fence that separated the Center's research buildings and visitor center from the angel house. The buildings were brick blocks, only interesting in how they stacked up into vague pyramidal shapes with wide roof gardens where visiting angels would land without encountering anyone other than Center staff. The infirmary was on the top floor the Anatomy and Physiology building for just that reason – angels sick enough to come themselves or be brought by kin still wanted to avoid unfamiliar humans.

The visitor center was a fairly modern building with the lion's share of the parking lot in front of it, and a spacious welcoming facade. It spread out and up the hill, containing the small museum gallery, a few meeting and class rooms, and several workshops of one sort or another, including the basketry, the woodworking studio, and recording suite. Guests coming to collaborate with any of the resident angels worked there, instead of in the research buildings – which housed the infirmary, the biomedical labs, and the artifact and specimen collections, the media archive with almost a century of angel audio and video recordings and photographs, all under much more security that the creative work spaces warranted.

She turned on her laptop and began working on data from the autonomous recording units from one of the silent quarter sites. She was making notes about the Enochian songs that needed better translation when she heard the crunch of tires on gravel.

Sam slid himself out of his Mini Cooper Clubman legs first. The car actually had a surprising amount of legroom once Sam actually got into it, but the unfolding he had to do to get out was more than a little ridiculous. It made Sam look like he should be under a circus tent wearing greasepaint, not that anyone – not even Jess or his brother Dean – could tell Sam that without getting a horrible glare sent their way.

"Where's Gabriel?" Sam asked as he sat down at the picnic table.

"Running late?" Jess suggested with a shrug. She pulled her phone to check, but before she turned it on a shadow rippled over the picnic table. She turned to follow, and saw Gabriel flapping as he landed twenty feet away.

The angel shook out his wings and folded them back as he walked over. He was dressed in his normal casual attire of jeans and heeled boots with an altered shirt and jacket. But he was also wearing a baseball cap with a patch that said "Cookie Dad" on it in bright, cheerful colors.

"Meeting run long?" Jess asked.

"Sorry, Eileen wanted to talk about the camping trip again."

Sam stared between the two of them, and then asked, "You're a Girl Scout leader?"

"It's a good way to socialize angel children to humans," Jess explained. "Once they get past the stage where they'd completely imprint. They don't advance through the levels as fast as humans, but it's still good for them."

Gabriel grinned. "I still keep in touch with all the women from my old troop."

"You were not a Girl Scout!" Sam frowned.

"Sure I was." He held up his right hand, three fingers extended and thumb tucked over pinkie. “On my honor, I will try—"

"You're a guy!"

Jess elbowed Sam in the ribs. "They didn't know that at the time."

Gabriel grinned hugely and plopped himself on the bench. "I made bank on cookie sales, because I was adorable. And yes, they did think I was a girl when I was a child. Didn't you know that?"

Sam frowned, his face in full furrowed concentration. Jess always thought it was cute how he scrunched up his nose like that.

"I... knew that the early researchers didn't know about how angel children don't have gender, but... I guess I didn't put it together with them thinking you were a girl when you were a kid. You were really a Girl Scout?"

Gabriel rolled his shoulders and waggled his wings a bit. "Yep. So were a lot of the others – like Jess said, it's good for socialization. And it helps us make human friends, which is more important in the long run. Every girl who was in a troop with one of my siblings is a girl who grew up with actual knowledge of angels. The greater number of humans that actually care about us, the higher the chances are for us surviving."

"We're doing all we can, Gabriel," Jess said, and touched his hand were it rested on the picnic table.

Gabriel frowned and stared at her, and then Sam. "No, you're not. Not all of you, and not you in particular." He leaned forward against the table. "You... you two... I want you to consider me."

"That's why we're here, isn't it? Because you... well... want..."

"I want to be married, Sam. At least, half-married. Three flying vee isn't four squared, but it's better than two together and one alone."

Sam looked confused, and Jess had to sympathize. Gabriel had used a phrase translated straight out of Enochian that didn't really convey the depth of what he meant. Even with her years of study, a lot of the time she just didn't get the full nuances of true Enochian – asking Sam, who knew the stripped down vocabulary that John Dee had developed centuries ago for his work, to follow colloquialisms, was just too much.

"But why us?" Jess asked, gesturing between her and Sam.

"You look at Sam and have to ask?" Gabriel raised his eyebrows at her.

"Well, no..."

"Hey! I'm sitting right here!" Sam snapped.

"And very prettily too."

"Gabriel..." Jess warned.

"Sorry." The angel's wings drooped to hang dispiritedly down his back.

"Dude, you're not helping your case. And anyway, why me, there's a lot of angel men at the Center—"

"Those are my brothers!" Gabriel snapped, his wings flaring up and his shoulders hunching in – a classic threat posture that was only a gesture away from a wingclap that would deafen both Jess and Sam.

"They're blues, Sam. All of the adults at the Center are blues." Jess shot a reassuring look to Gabriel. "I've declared myself blue, so you have to be red—"

"...Right...?" Sam nodded, and made a 'gimme' gesture.

"Gabriel can only court reds, since he's from the blue moiety."

"Shouldn't you be looking for a red woman, Gabriel?"

"Like there’s any red woman who is available from here to Labrador," Gabriel snorted. "Everyone sub-adult red is too young. I can't marry them."

"Why not?"

"Because they're fledglings." Gabriel said.

"Because angels prefer the women in a marriage to be slightly older than the men," Jess said. It was a problem, for Gabriel's generation and after. The chestnut blight nearly a century ago had destroyed one of their staple foods and caused widespread starvation in the eastern angel population, and then swine flu at mid-century had picked off the survivors, and for some reason reds were more susceptible than blues to the varieties that had swept through the mountains over the decades. The moieties were unbalanced, and would probably be so for another generation or two, if the angel population didn't collapse completely. There were probably under 5,000 angels in North America, and less than a quarter of those were married squares – the population was bottle-necking, and losing genetic variation at a terrifying rate.

"Gabriel's older than either of us," Sam pointed out.

"Yeah, but you're humans, you'll age faster and it'll even out. We can all be decrepit together," Gabriel said, looking back and forth and laughing at their faces. "What? It's true."

"That's your best reason?" Jess rolled her eyes.

"No, Jess, it's actually kind of … you mean we'll all grow old together, right?" Sam asked even as he nodded.

"So you'll consider me?" Gabriel looked hopeful, eyes bright, wings cupping the air slightly.

"You need to make your case, Gabriel," Jess said. "Not just that you think my husband is hot."

"Well, he's hot, and you deserve a brother in your marriage that you can trust."

"Humans don't square, Gabriel, you know that." Jess knew he did know that, and knew it probably didn't matter. Gabriel's early history meant he was partially imprinted on humans, which was why he'd had sex with various humans over the years – even though the Center tried to dissuade him from doing so. He kept seeing humans as possible sexual partners, and it had resulted in problems. And a pornographic film that was still in circulation, because it was one of the few legally produced explicit films that featured an angel; people who wanted that as their fantasy fodder could buy Casa Erotic or make do with human actors in prostheses, or get things that were basically filmed rapes and as illegal to own as kiddie porn.

"You should. Families get along better with four parents."

"Uhm, don't you guys get along at the Center okay with any?" Sam asked.

Gabriel's wings flopped again, and he drooped, laying his head down on the table.

"Sam," Jess said softly, even as she reached a hand out to pet Gabriel's head. "Angels have a lot biochemical needs that we're only halfway supporting at the Center. We're doing our best, but there's hormones, pheromones that we really can't replace..."

"Don't say you want to do this for science."

"Maybe a little? Not that I don't like you, Gabriel," she said when he lifted his head up enough to look at her with a weather eye, "but you're asking Sam to have sex with you, not me—"

"You're my sister," Gabriel said with a wrinkled nose and flattened, unhappy wings. Jess didn't blame him; even hinting at moiety-incest would repel most angels, and with Gabriel's unfortunate history...

"And you want to have sex with my husband."

"Yeah," Gabriel looked at her. "Are you worried about... Jess, if we get half-married it'll be a lot easier for the three of us to find a red-wife. That way you could have women's sex, if that's what you're worried about missing..."

"Not really..."

Sam looked speculative, "Wait, what?"

"If she wants to have children, she needs to have women's sex," Gabriel explained to Sam.

"That's not how it works, Gabriel," Jess said.

"Yeah, it is. Women's sex calls the spirit, men's sex molds the clay, cross-sex shapes the shell."

"That's not how it works for humans." Humans didn't need to exchange bodily fluids with male and female members of the opposite moiety to achieve full fertility. Gabriel knew humans made it to reproductive maturity without basically becoming physiologically dependent on their sexual partners – and he kept forgetting it. Jess wanted bang herself on the forehead.

"Well, you mammals don't make sense anyway..." Gabriel sniffed and flicked his wings.

"And it wouldn't work. You wouldn't get your adult feathers by marrying – having sex – with me," Sam said. “I’m not an angel.”

Gabriel stared at Sam and rolled his eyes.

"Ah, he could, Sam,” Jess said. “And he would. Gabriel went into courtship plumage before, back in the 70s."

“Back in the 70s? What happened then?”

She grimaced at the memory; Raymond Colvin had discovered that angels react badly when you changed your assumed moiety, that's what happened. And Gabriel crashed and burned before achieving full adulthood. "Things... didn't work out and he reverted to sub-adult plumage."

"So humans are perfectly adequate for my purposes. If you're worried that all I've got offer is sex, I'm also excellent at raising siblings and I earn money from my sound engin—"

Sam cut him off, "Dude, no, don't bring money into it."

Gabriel looked confused for a moment, then lowered his hands to the table and asked, "Will you consider me?"

"You don't even know I like men," Sam said.

Gabriel rolled his eyes and looked pointedly at Jess. Jess coughed and muttered, "I might have said something about Brady. Off-handed, but..."

Sam squirmed, and turned to Gabriel. "Well, you don't know that Jess likes women."

Jess flushed and looked away.

"Really? You really told him that?"

"Angels gossip a lot inside their moiety," Jess said, still blushing. "I wanted to fit in."

"Also, Rachel and Matityahu gave her a lot of booze that night," Gabriel said helpfully. "Humans are kind of lightweights."

Sam put his head in his hands and sighed. Jess couldn't blame him. This couldn't have been what he ever expected to happen when he meet her at Stanford, when she was doing her degree in xenology and he was studying the classics and library science. Five years of happy marriage and now she was doing the ultimate form of bringing her work home with her, and it really was beyond all reasonable bounds. But he knew Gabriel, and knew Castiel who was still tooling around the country with Sam's brother Dean, a qualified field hunter, and most of the angels at the Center to one degree or another.

Finally he looked up, and studied Gabriel. Jess watched as he tried to sit there calmly as Sam just stared at him, but couldn't quite manage not to fidget with wings and hands.

Jess really looked at them. Sam looked intense, focused, as he considered Gabriel across the picnic table. Gabriel looked like himself – stocky, short for an angel, wings arching out from his lower back in buff and brown and white, with his speculum made of iridescent blue secondaries, a bright shock of color against an otherwise muted background. Dressed in adapted human clothes, he looked as entirely acculturated as he was, and maybe as old as his early forties, instead of his true age of somewhere around eighty. His fidgeting wings were cupped forward, enhancing the intense body posture that showed his nerves a lot more than his uncharacteristically blank face.

"Okay," Sam said. "Kiss me."

"Excuse me?"

"Kiss me. If we're going to try this crazy proposal of yours, I want you to kiss me now—"

Jess clapped a hand over her mouth to stop her laughter as Gabriel lunged up and over the table to grab Sam's face and kiss him. Sam looked thunderstruck, then confused, and then his hands came up and he took control. Gabriel relaxed in stages, his wings relaxing until they draped all over the picnic table and his arms entwining loosely over Sam's shoulders. It was surprisingly hot.

Finally, Sam drew back and Gabriel all but slithered off the table, his head tucked against Sam's shoulder as he sat with a thump.

"Wow. You're a terrible kisser," Sam said.

Gabriel glared up at him. "You liked it!"

"I didn't say I didn't like it. But you're bad at kissing," Sam looked sideways at Jess as he started running his fingers through Gabriel's hair. "I could teach him to be better... if that's good with you?"

"That was one of the hottest things you've ever done for me." She kissed Sam herself, soft and sweet.

When she drew back, Gabriel was giving her a speculative look. "So... what else is he good at?"

Gabriel flew to Sam and Jess' house that weekend. He had to follow Jess' car from the Center, since Jess couldn't tell him what her home sounded like, and the recording she played for him was badly distorted from the limited abilities of her phone to record. Most of the lower tones were just missing. Gabriel couldn't navigate from only the talking registers – with no earthsong, he would be as limited as an infant, unable to orientate a distance further that the distance from the angel house to the visitor building at the Center. How humans coped with such limited hearing...well, they'd obviously figured out ways to do so, since they could and did navigate, but they also got lost even as sub-adults.

Fortunately, when Jess left it was early enough that Gabriel could follow the unique rhythm of her car as she drove it through town. He'd had to alight a few times on various buildings as she got caught at stoplights, but people were used to angels flying across the valley nowadays. Landing to get one's bearings was completely acceptable behavior, as long as you didn't try to break in from the roof. Some of the businesses, like Gabriel's favorite cafe, and the hardware store, even had roof entrances for angel patrons. It was a lot better than when he'd been young-at-foot.

"So, good?" Jess asked as he landed on her lawn by her car. Her house was typically human, all right-angles, narrow windows, and a door that he'd have to pull his wings close to get through. It sounded solid though, as Gabriel turned his attention to the earthsong that traveled through the building – sturdy wooden construction, with techniques that hadn't been used in decades. The building was quite possibly older than he was, and retrofitted, as he could see lights on the extensive porch and the front window was a picture window, large and expansive and completely modern.

"I can find it again," Gabriel agreed. He would also be able to give the location to his siblings; human languages were completely useful for navigating, but he could describe the immediate earthsong in Enochian by tomorrow, after he'd listened to it and heard how it changed from day to night and back.

"Good to know," Jess said, and took him up into the house.

He did have to pinch his wings back to get through the door. Inside, it was warm enough, and had the faint hum of electricity in use. A fairly typical human house, in other words.

"Come on," Jess tugged on his arm, and drew him up the stairs, which were steeper than he liked. Shoes were entirely useful in reassuring humans that he was a person, but he would rather be able to feel the floor under his feet without a stiff layer of material muffling the sensation from toes.

"This is the guest room – you okay with sleeping here?" Jess asked, as she opened as a door just past the bathroom.

Gabriel poked his head through the door, and found a perfectly ordinary room by human standards. Narrow, rectangular bed, chest of drawers, shelves, a lamp – the only way it differed from any of the hotel rooms he'd stayed in over the years was the lack of an attached bathroom and the lack of a desk or table and chairs to sit in. It wasn't even particularly small, as rooms went.

"I'll be fine. I do know how to sleep alone." He didn't particularly like sleeping by himself, but he'd done it when traveling and when ill.

Jess flinched. "It's just..."

"..we're just beginning courtship, I know." Gabriel said, and patted her arm. When she relaxed against him, he decided to chance it, and brought his wing around as he hugged her. She was fairly tall compared to the rest of his sisters, but that just meant it was easy to lay his head against her shoulder and cuddle for a moment.

Eventually, there was the rumble of a car driving up, and its motor turning off.

"That's Sam," Jess said. She pulled back from him, and fidgeted.

Gabriel smiled at her, and then leapt down the stairs, three at at a time, to pull open the door and chirp, "Hi honey, you're home!"

Sam looked shocked and baffled for a moment, but settled on bemused. "Hi honey. I brought pizza..."

Jess began to laugh, and Gabriel knew then that things would work out.

The second week Gabriel stayed over the weekend – and did nothing more than eat pizza with them, sit on the floor as they watched DVDs, and expect them to scratch his wings in the places he couldn't reach – Sam got a call from Dean.

His brother was somewhere in Colorado hunting an eye-killer, and Sam had more information for him about the creature, but mostly Dean wanted to chat.

"So what's this I hear about Cas's brother staying with you?" Dean finally asked.

"Gabriel's staying over on weekends."

"Cas was talking courtship, and marriage. What the hell, Sammy?"

"'Sam', Dean," Sam corrected automatically.

"Whatever. Dude, what the hell are you doing?"

"Gabriel wants to spend time with us. I don't see a problem with that."

"'Gabriel wants to spend time with us'?! What does that even mean?"

"He comes over on the weekends. We eat pizza, watch movies, that sort of thing. He helps with the yardwork – he's better at gardening than me or Jess." Which Sam thought was kind of funny, but Gabriel had said his blue-grandfather when he was a child gardened, and Gabriel had helped him. That would have been back in the 40s or 50s, and Sam wasn't sure, but that might have been a desperation step from Gabriel's family; North American angels at that time were forest foragers – nuts and berries and wild game – and silviculturalists but they'd also lost their staple crop of chestnuts by then, and a lot of Gabriel's generation of children had starved to death. Nowadays, the acculturated angels ate food from groceries, and the semi-acculturated practiced horticulture and silviculture with human support. Only the isolationists still tried to make it as forest foragers.

"So you're not fucking him? Because, dude, you do know about Casa Erotica? The original one, I mean..?" Dean asked.

"Yes, Dean. And you do know reality is not porn, right?"

"Just saying, dude makes a porno, you gotta wonder—"

"He was young and thought he was in love, and if you tell me you didn't do anything that stupid as a teenager, Dean, I'm sure I could come up with a half-dozen names of girls who wound up slapping you for one thing or another."

"Yeah, but I never taped anything..."

"I'm pretty sure that's because we couldn't have afforded a video camera," Sam said.

"Well, maybe," Dean said. "Seriously, how weird is to be friends with a guy whose dick you've seen...?"

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. "You're living in motels with Castiel, Dean..."

"Well, that's different. Cas is like, oblivious to women. I mean, I've tried to talk him round, but he's still unicorn bait."

"Thanks, Dean, I really needed to know that."

"Well, he is!"

"Dean, Cas is a sub-adult angel. He'll have sex when he's ready."

"Sammy, Cas is older than me and still a virgin."

"It happens, Dean. It's not the end of the world." Sam shrugged, even though his brother couldn't see that over the phone. "He might have decided that since his chances of getting married are low, he doesn't want to go through all of second-stage puberty if he can avoid it."

"… what?"

"He's a blue moiety angel, Dean. He needs to marry red-moiety angels, and there just aren't many of them available. And there aren't many territories free that could support a family. He might have decided that occasionally having sex with a neighbor just wasn't worth it."

"Dude, sex is always worth it!"

"Not you can't manage to marry and hold a territory of your own. Not if you're going to be stuck in permanent adolescence, Dean. But you'd know all about that..." Sam said.



Jess was staying up at the Center for the night, though she promised she'd leave her phone on so that Sam could call her if he needed her, and that she'd come right home if he wound up freaking out. There was a visiting family all here for a medical check-up – a blue mother, and her red-husband, their children of an infant and both a red and blue young-at-foot all there – so Jess was staying to help manage the excitement from the Center’s angels. Strange visiting adults tended to rile them, and while most of them could stand their own if it came to a fight, having humans in the house made things easier for both sides. Humans weren't susceptible to angel social hierarchies, and having people that could stand up to visitors made things easier on the Center’s angel residents.

It didn't help that Flies-In-Her-Wonder was a bit of traditionalist. While she was happy to get her children immunized, she also looked down her nose at the Center’s angels and saw them a bunch of unruly sub-adults that needed some square to take over and organize them. Gabriel though she needed to get her beak out of everyone's business, especially because she tended to treat his siblings like they were her younger nest-siblings to be ordered around.

Of course, the problem with that was that unless a square rose up from among Center themselves – and that was unlikely, with only a few juvenile reds and one infant among twenty-three angels – there was an enormous chance that there would be horrific violence if a square of adults tried to take over the Center’s nest. After all, Gabriel was only the first angel to wind up in human hands after a family annihilation, he wasn't the only one; he wasn't even the only one at the Center, since a good third of the angels there had been run out of their family territory by one sibling, theirs or a parents, deciding that since there were no good territories left to claim, the only way they'd ever get to be adults was to eliminate the ones already there. At least with Gabriel as the eldest sub-adult and de facto authority figure – sad as that was – his siblings at the Center seemed to have figured out a stable equilibrium that worked for them that didn't result in mayhem and death.

Maybe it would be different if there were any red angels old enough to get married at the Center, but Rikbiel, Tabbris, and Cheriour were it, and they were little more than young-at-foot at best. When Rikbiel or Tabbris fledged out, they might have trouble, but Gabriel was going to be pushing elderly by then, and it would hopefully be someone else's problem.

"Jess said I was supposed to make sure you didn't eat out of cans..." Gabriel said as he watched Sam rummage through his pantry.

The tall red – the human acting red, Gabriel reminded himself – frowned at him. "I'm not that bad."

"Jess said you'd eat bachelor chow if they made it in fifty-pound bags."

Sam rolled his eyes. "I didn't learn to cook when I was a kid. My dad's idea of a fancy meal was steak and potatoes on a grill. Dean and me, we made mac-and-cheese and tuna more times than I can count."


"Can you cook?"

"Not really," Gabriel said, then added, "Not for humans, anyway."

Sam looked up at that. "Why not?"

"You guys react to peppers differently. It makes cooking for humans hard – too spicy or too bland, I can never get the balance right."

"Okay, but not every dish has peppers in it."

"Not every dish has onions in it, but I'd bet you'd have trouble making a meal without them," Gabriel replied.

Sam frowned down at the stove. "Huh. Yeah, that's tricky... but angels don't grow vegetables..."

"Nope, I buy mine from the grocery," Gabriel said.

"No, I mean the angels living out there, the ones who still live traditional. They don't grow vegetables, so why do you eat them, enough that you have peppers in every meal?"

Gabriel shrugged. "We foraged for nuts and wild vegetables, and my blue grandfather collected plants. He had a garden, of a sort —"

"Really? I didn't know that."

"– and most angels like peppers."

"So I should make chile rellenos?"

Gabriel’s wings mantled at the thought. "No. Too much cheese."

"You can eat cheese. I've seen you eat cheese."

"Not as much as a human can. How about spaghetti?"

"Without cheese?"

"A little cheese I can do."

"Okay, spaghetti it is. Could you get the pot out?" Sam gestured with his hand over his shoulder at the cabinets as he stuck his head in the pantry, digging for supplies. What Gabriel really wanted was some nut mash, but he had a bag of pecans in his overnight bag if he got lightheaded or really hungry, so he ate Sam's cooking without a complaint.

When Sam turned on the TV, Gabriel joined him on the couch. It was odd without the buffer of Jess; he'd hesitated to more than flirt with his sister's husband in her presence because humans were so touchy about that sort of thing, but even with them alone he still felt nervous about it. Too long only with sisters and brothers at the Center, that must be it.

Sam was warm the way humans were warm – cooler than an angel, but warmer than the air, all animal warmth and the soft surration of breath.

"Hmmm," Sam hummed, and slipped his fingers between Gabriel's feathers to pet at his actual skin. "You're warm."

"Always am, compared to you mammals," Gabriel said.

Sam seemed to think that over, then raised the remote to turn off the TV. "Bed?"


At the top of the stairs, Sam turned towards the small bedroom Gabriel used, then stopped. "Uhm, your room okay?"

"Yeah, fine."

Sam seemed uncertain after he'd stepped into the room, so Gabriel ducked around him, and stretched out his wings a little before bringing them back around the tall red – human, human pretending to be red. At Sam's nervous smile, Gabriel smiled back. Human was good.

He let Sam take the kiss, take control with Sam's hand wrapping up around his head as Sam kissed him. Humans liked kissing, and if Gabriel didn't try to do anything but mimic Sam, he didn't think Sam minded that. It wasn't like he had any instinct for kissing, after all.

"Hi," Sam said as he let go of Gabriel's mouth, as he stared at Gabriel with wide, intense eyes.

"Hi yourself." Gabriel said. He spread his wings a little in invitation.

Sam took the invitation, unbuttoning the flaps that held the bottom of Gabriel's shirt around his wings, and drew it off over his head.

Gabriel shivered for a moment, then mantled his wings in display. His feathers fluffed out, which made Sam chuckle and run his fingers up and under the coverts, right into the down. Gabriel rested his forehead against Sam's collar and let the man explore. Fingers combing through his feathers, over his arms and up his back, right between his wings.

Gabriel lost his balance as Sam stroked over his brood patch. Which caused him to fall forward, flapping his wings in a desperate attempt to right himself, and to knock Sam off his own solid feet.

Fortunately, they landed on the bed, instead of the floor.


"'re really sensitive..." Sam said, with an adorable sheepish look on his face.

Gabriel scooted off him so that he was sitting on the bed instead of lying on Sam. "It's my brood patch. Hells yes, I'm sensitive."

"Don't..." Sam said, beginning to stroke up Gabriel's back, then stopped, obviously thinking better of it when Gabriel raised his eyebrows at him.

"Take off your shirt, Sam."

Sam grinned, and grabbed at the hem. Then he paused. "Want to help?"

Gabriel rolled his eyes, and yanked the back of Sam's shirt up over his head as Sam laughed like a donkey at him.

"Somebody's impatient," Sam caroled.

"Somebody's already been felt up tonight."

"Right, right. Sorry, I'm not trying to be a tease..."

Gabriel rolled his eyes again, and kicked off his shoes.

"Oh," Sam said.

Gabriel froze. "You've seen feet before..."

"Only photos. You always wear shoes," Sam said, and pulled Gabriel's feet into his lap. He ran his fingers over Gabriel's foot, exploring. He traced the line of scales trailing down from Gabriel's shank, mapped out the angle and knob of his ankle, and slipped fingers between his toes, spreading them wide. Gabriel watched, and when Sam still looked curious and interested, he twisted his ankle and squeezed Sam's wrist once, gently.

"That's why you wear stacked heels. Huh. That's... really... different," Sam said. He was staring down at Gabriel's toes wrapped around his wrist.

"Not bad different, or creepy different?"

"Not bad." Sam looked up, "Somebody actually found your feet creepy? But you're just you."

"Sometimes people freak out when they realize I'm not human."

Sam frowned. "But you’ve got wings."

"Yeah, I know. But angels look a lot like humans. People get confused when they don't remember we're not the same."

"Angels included?"

Gabriel snorted. "Oh yeah. There's things that I wish I knew forty years ago. Would have made the 1970's a lot easier."

"Yeah, I know what you mean."

"Oh? Do tell? I thought you and Jess met in college? When did you have time to make horrible mistakes?"

"In college. And no, I'm not telling you more." Sam mumbled through a blush, and whatever else Gabriel might have asked was thrown out of his head when Sam started unbuckling his jeans.

"Hey, stop staring at my crotch and take off your own damned pants."

Gabriel jerked back to attention, then smirked at Sam. "Bossy."

"Yeah, yeah. Strip, Gabriel."

Gabriel laughed, and made a show of it. He could slither out of his jeans with the best of them, and did so, standing before Sam wearing only his boxers and his own feathers. He stood in the center of the room and stretched his wings wide, showing off their span and the symmetry of his feathering for Sam. He might have been stuck as a sub-adult for decades, but he still had glorious wings, even if they were mottled brown and white and blue only his speculum.

"That's so fucking amazing," Sam said, "You're fucking amazing." The red reached out, and drew Gabriel down into his lap. He draped himself willingly over Sam, and spent the next few moment nuzzling in.

"So, how do you want to do this?"

Sam drew back, and gave Gabriel a considering look. "How about … slowly?"

"I'm going to need more than that, Sam—"

"Gabriel," Sam sighed. "Look, I don't want to rush. We're still figuring each other out, if this could work, and seriously, sex is the least of my concern. I'm enjoying making out. Why do you want to rush things?"

"Because I want to be married, Sam," Gabriel snapped. "It's a lot more biochemistry for me than it is for you!"

Sam looked unhappy. "I don't want to rush things, Gabriel."

"Can we at least get to mutual jerking off tonight?" Gabriel whined in exasperation. Sam's face went all Kermit-muppety, and Gabriel sighed. "I want to get all the anatomical weirdness out of the way tonight."

Sam's bitchface fell away into a grin. "I have seen the porno, Gabriel."

"Ugh, that movie. They didn't film everything, you know. You didn't know about my feet!"

"I knew about angel feet, I just hadn't seen anyone's in person."

"Yeah? So what do you know about angel dicks?"

"Ah... it's mostly inside your body until you get excited, your testicles are internal, and you don't have a prostate."

"Oh." Gabriel said in a small voice. "So you've studied..."

"I am married to Jess. She wouldn't let us try this without making me read the textbook on angel anatomy."

"Ah, right."

Sam smiled, and after a moment said, "Why don't I take off my shorts and you do the same?"

They wound up sitting cross-legged on the bed facing each other. Sam was, well, Sam – tall and extremely attractive in a human way, with muscle cleanly sculpted and body covered with fine hair; his penis was normal for a human, though without the protective foreskin some of them had. Gabriel knew he was attractive as most angels saw things, with his wings nicely symmetrical in feathering and patterning and his shoulders broad enough to carry weight, and he wasn't skinny from deprivation, but he had grown up among humans, and they saw things differently, and he knew for them he was average. His feathers puffed out in anxiety as he shivered under Sam's regard.

"Uh, wow," Sam said, after looking Gabriel up and down. "That's... different. Can I... come here?" Sam held out his hand, and then tugged Gabriel over, so that Gabriel was sitting against him, hip to hip as they faced each other. "Can I touch you?"

"You mean my dick," Gabriel said. It was obvious that Sam was interested, not just with his mind, but with his body, because his own penis was half-hard, clearly readying itself.

"Uh, yeah. I mean, I won't hurt you, will I?" Sam's hands fluttered against the inside of Gabriel's thigh.

Gabriel laughed at that. He caught Sam's wrist in his hand, brought it up to his mouth and pressed his lips to the palm before guiding it back down. "Just be gentle. Like this," he said, as he covered Sam's hand with his own, and pushed. The sensation of Sam's fingers against his as they pushed aside his genital fold and encouraged his penis to emerge made him trill softly. Sam's fingers were huge, just like the rest of him, and it felt really good to have Sam rubbing him into extension.

"Okay, that's weird," Sam said.

Gabriel opened his eyes to glare at Sam.

"Well, it is. Your penis just split in half!" Sam protested, but didn't remove his hand from over Gabriel's. In fact, he'd slipped his thumb forward and was rubbing absently at the forked head.

"You're just jealous yours doesn't do that," Gabriel said, and shifted around, dropping his head to rest on Sam's shoulder. "You can go harder. No, harder, like that, yeah. You can pinch it with your thumb like – yeah, like that."

Sam took instruction well, Gabriel murmured soft encouragement, and when Sam pulled his chin up with his free hand to a kiss, that was what he needed to let the red stroke him into orgasm.

"So, that was nice," Sam said as Gabriel recovered, sprawled across Sam's legs with one of his wings flopped around the man's face. Gabriel frowned at that faint praise, and then smiled at Sam's sheepish, red-faced look.

"So what can I do for you, Sam?" he asked, even as he clambered up to straddle Sam's legs and grasp his erection.

"That's g-good," Sam stammered as Gabriel began to stroke him with a firm back and forth grip. The red's huge hands wrapped around Gabriel's waist and twined up his back to stroke over and between his wings.

Gabriel whistled as Sam pressed fingers into his brood patch, and he stroked Sam harder. The red was curling forward, hands roaming up and down Gabriel's back, over his head, encouraging him down. Gabriel wasn't sure Sam was even aware he was doing it, but he didn't mind Sam's desire.

When he set his mouth against Sam's penis, it was the shape of it, the heavy salt and delicate give against his tongue, that had him whistling from deep in his chest. His syrinx vibrated in his excitement, and the sensation rippled up to shake Sam's orgasm out of him. Sam's groans went with his hands clenching against Gabriel's brood batch and hair, and Gabriel almost convulsed himself in the sudden shock of it, his back tingling as well as his tongue as he licked Sam through to the aftershocks.

"Wow," Sam said as he flopped back to sprawl on the bed.

"Yeah," Gabriel agreed, wiping his mouth. He sucked his fingers, not wanting to miss any of the salty taste of Sam’s come, and then looked at Sam consideringly.

"What are you, a rabbit? Nobody gets it back up like that," Sam said in a tone of vague annoyance.

"Nobody human, you mean." Gabriel grinned and then pounced, pinned Sam's arms with his wings and let his hands roam over Sam's chest while he nipped at his jaw. His erection rubbed against Sam's thigh. When Sam worked his arms free and captured Gabriel for a kiss, it was all over. Sam cradled his head with one hand and pushed the other against Gabriel's back, right between his wings, until he saw stars and came all over Sam’s lap.

"That was fun," Gabriel said against Sam's shoulder a bit later. He'd wound up with his nose pressed against Sam's collarbone, and his wing blanketing the man.

"Yeah," Sam agreed with a yawn.

"We should definitely do that again."


"Are you even awake?"

"Yeah." He began snoring.

Gabriel sighed. They’d wound up lying head to footboard, and he pulled the pillow from the head of the bed with his feet – Sam would thank him later for not letting him get a crick in his neck – and tried pulling the sheet around as well, but Sam was too awkward a weight to move without cooperation. He’d would just have to make do and cuddle Gabriel for warmth. That was fine by him, so he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

"Here," Gabriel said three weeks later, and slapped an envelope in front of Sam while throwing himself sideways into a kitchen chair.

"What is this?" Sam asked. His hand hovered before he picked Gabriel's delivery off the kitchen table with a wary look.

"Oh, is that the medical report?" Jess plucked the envelope from Sam's fingers. "Blood tests are negative?"

"Yes," Gabriel grumped, feathers bristling.

"Well, I had to make sure," Sam said, and dug his spoon decisively into his oatmeal.

"I told you that I can't even get most mammalian diseases, but would you listen to me—"

"Gabriel," Jess cut him off, giving him a calm stare across the breakfast table. "He had to be sure. What if you'd been carrying something without knowing?"

"I wasn't."

Jess counted to five, reminded herself that she was an adult, even if Gabriel wasn't, and said "What if—"

"I wasn't!" Gabriel yelled.

"Gabriel," Jess said.

Gabriel looked down at the tabletop, and deflated. He put his hands down on the surface, then his head, and mumbled, "I just want to be half-married..."

Jess read the test results again. Negative for everything they tested for – all the usual STDs humans could get that angels really did seem immune to, and the few diseases that seemed to be native to angels themselves – and that was all Sam could have asked for. She held the paper out to Sam.

"Okay," Sam said.

After a few weeks, Gabriel invited Sam and Jess to spend the night with him in the angel house. They were courting, it would have been the normal thing to do, to have prospective mates visits and meet his family, if they'd all been angels. And his siblings were beginning to ask why he hadn't had invited Sam and Jess to share a night with him at home.

On the night that Jess and Sam agreed to sleep over at the Center, Gabriel managed to keep it to a few chuckles when Cheriour went right up to Sam and insisted on climbing up his back. Cheri might technically be young-at-foot, but zie was still the youngest angel in the nest, and got away with acting like an infant more than was good for zir. But seeing Sam with a clinger on his back was too precious for words, and made Gabriel want to drag Sam off to one of the sheltered nooks to reward his patience with sex.

Jess's fond and considering smile made Gabriel wondering if she were thinking the same thing, and what it would be like if they could ever find a red-wife for themselves. They could hatch a proper pair of infants, and Gabriel would carry Jess's blue one while Sam would carry the red-wife's, and everyone would be cuddled, fat, and happy.

But the chances of finding a red-woman who wasn't too young for Gabriel, who was attracted to humans, and who liked all three of them well enough to marry them... were pretty slim to none. Gabriel had decided that a half-marriage was good enough for him. Not that he wasn't going to go to the quadrennial international hoot, but mostly to chaperone the younger sub-adults, the ones who were less than two decade past their fledging. His chances of finding a red-wife there weren't very high, even at the biggest hoot in the world.

If one or a pair of his siblings managed to find a square this time round, he might cede his position as Eldest Blue-brother, resign himself to never reproducing, and go live with Jess and Sam full time. The visitor building was were his studio was, after all, and since it was outside the fence around the angel house itself, he should be able to argue it was a shared resource with whoever the Fathers and Mothers wound up being. Especially if he kept contributing to the family funds.

"Does the baby have to sleep with us?" Sam asked.

Jess watched as Cheriour snuggled defiantly against Sam's back, the tiny angel's fluffy face going stubborn as zie dug zir heels into Sam's ribs. The baby didn't seem to notice zie was resting between prosthetic wings, or at least wasn't going to give up Sam's fake redness for Gabriel's authentic blueness.

"Aw, Samwich, don't you realize you're irresistible?" Gabriel chuckled, even as he began unbutton his shirt at the back. The angel pulled it off over his head when he'd undone the buttons under his wings, and put in a hanger on a clothes rack beside the bed. It was a simple platform affair, no headboard or baseboard, set amid a motley collection of furniture. Jess thought the effect was a bit like being in an IKEA showroom. Some of the furnishings weren’t so much stylishly retro as just old – Gabriel had been a young sub-adult the first time lava lamps were popular and had apparently just kept his the entire time.

Sam snorted. "I'd still not rather have a kid sleeping on me."

"Here, let me," Jess said, and reached around to pry Cheriour off Sam's back. The baby looked up at her with a frown. Jess tried to cuddle zie close to reassure zir.

"Oww!" she yelped.

"Ooops," Gabriel said, and scooped Cheriour away. "Hey, kiddo, no biting!"

Cheriour looked mutinous, and squirmed.

"Sorry, Sam," Gabriel said, and thrust the baby back at Sam. For his part, Sam sat still while Cheri clambered back between his fake wings, and snuggled back down.

Jess rubbed at her chest, where the baby had tried to nip her, and frowned. Cheri was usually a sunny, easy infant. "What's gotten into zie?"

"Cheri doesn't get a red all to zirself that often," Gabriel murmured. "Probably just defensive."

Sam woke the next morning with his face mashed into the mattress, Gabriel's head warm and heavy on his shoulder, his arm numb where Jess was lying on it, and solid weight on his back.

"Why am I everyone's pillow?" he muttered. There seemed to be a lot more bodies lying on him than there should be.

"Because you're comfy?" Gabriel said in his ear.

Sam gave Gabriel a sideways look, and tried to move. "Ow," he said a moment later, having been kicked in the kidneys by Cheri, who was not at all pleased by having zir pillow move.

"C'mon you," Gabriel said, and peeled Cheri off Sam just long enough for Cheri to sigh mightily and stick zirself to Gabriel's back. "Let's go find you a snack. Sam, you’ll be good while I go find some sister to feed Cheri?"

"Yeah, sure," Sam said, and rolled onto his side so that he could snuggle closer to Jess. Some moments later, there was another weight on his back, and turned his head to look.

"I'm not a pillow," Sam grumbled.

Jess opened her eyes, and gave him a baffled look. When Sam jerked his head, she propped herself up on her elbows and peered over him. "I think you're a security blanket?" she chuckled.

Sam was literally covered in baby angels. There were tiny, downy, blue-marked and red-marked wings flopped everywhere – Muriel, Rikbiel, Tabbris, and Kokobiel were the ones he recognized, but there were at least two other kids.

"Go back to sleep, honey," Jess murmured.

Sam sighed, and lay his head back down.

It was late September, almost six months into their lopsided menage-à-trois, when Gabriel followed Jess into the parking lot on a Friday night, and instead of teasing her about getting home before she would, he opened the passenger side door and stuffed himself into the seat.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Gabriel waggled his wings as much as he could inside the tight space. "I'm buckling up, what does it look like?"

"Why are you riding in my truck?"

Gabriel fluttered his wings again and frowned back at her. There were very few things that could convince an angel to stuff themselves into a vehicle when they could be flying. Jess stared at him a long moment, running through them, and then it clicked. "Are you molting?"


"You could’ve said."

"I just did."

Sam checked in on Gabriel the following morning. He’d gone to sleep in the guestroom – well, his room now, he spent so much time at their place they might as well call it that – after his usual habit of spending the evening eating pizza and watching TV with them. Instead of asking for help with his difficult to reach feathers when he’d sat on the floor, he had spread his wings back over them like a fluffy throw so that they could pet everywhere. Running hands through the feather tracks, Sam and Jess had dislodged loose ones, mostly down or marginal secondary coverts. It had almost been a chore, like folding laundry, except for the pleased chirps that had slipped out of Gabriel's mouth.

In the morning light, Gabriel's mottled brown wings looked even more ragged than they had the night before. There were downy feathers sticking all staticky to the top of the sheets and Sam could see the gap where his primaries met his secondaries – the feathers dropped there first, Sam knew, and would go out to the wingtip for the primaries and in towards his torso for the secondaries. The gap looked larger than last night, and Sam realized that some of the coverts must have dropped as well. There was a naked patch on Gabriel's left wing where Sam could see the pale pink skin. It looked vulnerable.

"You all right?" Sam asked.

Gabriel squinted, and threw off the bedsheets to sit up. A small cloud of fluff cascaded through the air. He put his feet down, and rubbed a hand over his head.

"Ugh," Gabriel said without moving his mouth. "Ick."

Sam stared. He didn't think he'd ever seen Gabriel forget to lip-synch his speech before – deliberately not do it for the disturbing effect, once or twice, but not just forget it entirely.

The angel looked up at Sam blearily, and batted his wings against the bedroom walls. He looked rumpled and unwell, sitting on a bed wearing only a pair of bright red boxers.

"Gabriel?" Sam asked again.

"Hi, Sam," Gabriel said, and then stopped, looking away again. He hadn't synched again.

"You okay?" At Gabriel's muzzy but inquiring look, Sam added, "You're kind of out of it."


"I know that."

"Fucking sucks," Gabriel grumbled. "I'm itchy."

"Want me to…?"

Gabriel gave him a narrow-eyed look, then slid over on the bed, making room for Sam to sit beside him. The moment Sam started finger-combing his wings, gently pulling loose feathers – mostly down, but also coverts, and even another secondary from Gabriel's right wing – into a pile tossed on the floor, Gabriel relaxed. Sam had read about molt, but he'd never actually seen an angel actually going through one. Pictures and articles didn't do justice to how uncomfortable Gabriel seemed to be, or how awful he was feeling.

"S'nice," Gabriel croaked, and then turned to look at Sam, his head tilted in consideration, wings rising slightly. "Wanna fuck?"

"...not really."

Gabriel's wings fell back down as the whole of him slumped, head and shoulders and entire body.

"Come here," Sam said, and pulled Gabriel into his lap. He made a tired, happy noise as Sam wrapped his arms around him. A bit of nuzzling, and Sam managed to slip his hands into Gabriel's boxers. He was so practiced now that he just forked his fingers, pushed firmly in the right place, and tugged Gabriel's dick out of its housing in one continuous move. Gabriel made a pleased sound and wrapped his arms around Sam's shoulders as he jerked him off in quick short strokes, his thumb sliding into the penis split automatically. Gabriel's wings twitched against Sam's shoulders and his head pressed against Sam's neck as he came with a soft chirruping sigh.

"Good?" Sam asked after it seemed like Gabriel got his breath back. Gabriel hadn't taken long to get off, but he was taking an oddly long time to surface from the afterglow.

Gabriel raised his head, blinked twice and nodded. "Yeah."

"All right, let's get these off," Sam pushed Gabriel's boxers down and let the angel kick them to somewhere in the far corner of the room. "Now you go back to sleep."

"Okay." He was face down and snuffling angelic snores before Sam even had time to draw the blankets back over his flopping wings.

"Hiya, Dr. V," Gabriel managed to mumble when the Center’s senior physician walked through his bedroom door.

"Gabriel," she said. She looked over his nest burrowed into the blankets with puckish eyes. "What have you done to yourself?"

"I'm just molting."

"This room looks like a hen-house exploded in here. Unless you've been having all-night pillow fights in here, that's not normal."

Gabriel frowned, and wrapped the blankets around himself. He was feeling better than he had in two days, even if he was dusty and cold – at least the muzziness was gone.

"Jess is worried that you might have the flu."

"I don't have the flu," Gabriel grumbled, and threw the blankets aside. Dr. Visyak had always presented herself as a blue, so he usually didn't feel any more embarrassed about being naked in front of her than he would have been in front of any other sibling at this or any other time. Unfortunately, this was different.

"Oh," Dr. Visyak said.

"I look like a plucked chicken," Gabriel muttered, trying to resist the urge to curl up in a ball. It was bad enough that his wings looked ridiculous, all of the flight feathers and coverts shed, with just down remaining in two tracks down their length. He didn't have to act like an infant too.

"A little bit," she said, and reached into her kit. "Especially with your hair gone – it brings out your nose." She tapped it as she mentioned it, which made Gabriel stare up at her – which she must have intended, because she stuck a thermometer in his ear with one hand and held him still with the other when he tried to flinch away from the cool plastic.


"It's an accurate reading, you know that," she said, and held him still while she waited for the beep.

"I don't like you sticking things in my ears!"

"When you stop breaking them, that's when you get oral thermometers again. You're actually a little cold..."

"I’m naked," Gabriel said, and rubbed his hands over his arms, trying not to hunch too obviously. He'd shed most of his feathers, after all.

"More so than usual," she smiled. "I want to draw some blood. You okay with that?" He frowned, but nodded. "Alar-ulnar vein okay? Since you won't be flying today and all."

Gabriel rolled his eyes, but lifted his wing up, exposing the inner surface of its elbow joint – the preferred vein for blood draws of infants and children, and anyone reasonable enough to not try to fly on a bruised wing if things got nicked, but it didn't mean he liked having his blood drawn. Not from his wing or anywhere else.

Dr. Visyak got it done quickly, a series of vaccutainers filled within minutes and tucked into her kit while Gabriel stared at the laundry hamper in the corner.

"All done. Want a My Little Pony band-aid? Sorry, I keep packing for Cheriour..."

Gabriel snorted. "You’re all going to be so embarrassed if Cheri turns out to be male when zie grows up."

"Probably, but that's what we get for trying to assign gender to baby angels." She looked thoughtful as she pressed the colorful band-aid against his skin, then ran her fingertips over the leading edge of his wing. "There’s feather shafts here, maybe a day or so from sprouting." She ran her free hand over his scalp, firm and quick. "Yup, definitely. If your feathers don't start erupting by the day after tomorrow at the latest, then I'll bother to start worrying. Until then, you're just going through an unusually hard molt."

"But you're still going to test my blood."

"That's for science," she grinned. "In the meantime, bundle up. Wear a hat. Two shirts and a sweater. Long underwear. That sort of thing. Not, I repeat, not your stripper clothes –"

"I don't have stripper clothes," Gabriel complained.

"And definitely more than just an apron, no matter how itchy you feel."

"I don't wear just an apron that often..."

Dr. Visyak snorted. "I've had more than one new student come into my office traumatized because you have decided all the angels at the Center should wear 'traditional dress' for the day for some damned reason or other, Gabriel."

"It's not my fault humans freak out so easily. It's not like you don't have butts too."

"You think it's funny to mess with the newbies and you know it," she said. "Yes, yes, you're adorable when you smile. That must be why we keep forgiving you for your mischief. Except that it doesn't work when you're completely bald. Get dressed and go downstairs and eat some protein. And at least three servings of fruit."

Gabriel rolled his eyes at the fruit directive, but nodded.

Gabriel looked like he had paintbrushes attached to his wings instead of feathers, and that he’d just gotten his head shaved for the marines, but he finally might be ready for the hoot in a few weeks. Sam felt bad about leaving for a hunting trip with Dean and Castiel, but he'd been planning this for weeks – all his work in the libraries was fine, but even men of letters needed to do field work sometimes.

"You all set?" Gabriel asked as he watched Sam lug his duffel bags downstairs. Jess wasn't back from the Center yet – the planning for the hoot had gotten to the fever pitch and she was pulling extra hours, so it was just Sam and Gabriel at the house. Putting the quadrennial xenology conference-slash-angelic marriage brokerage together was an insane amount of work in the last few months. There were travel visas to arrange and confirm, paper proposal to accept for presentations, last minute territorial disputes to resolve or at least squelch. Jess was a trooper, and Sam was glad he just had to show up and do whatever she told him.

Gabriel was snuggled down on the couch under a blanket, wearing a ridiculous striped sweater and matching cap. He looked like he'd mugged a beatnik for those clothes – all he'd need was a pair of sunglasses and a goatee.

"Yeah, looks like."

"Oh good. Let's go upstairs and fuck."

Sam froze, and stared at Gabriel. "It's only six o'clock."

"So? Jess won't be back until nine. We fuck now, you'll be able to nap and recover. Jess deserves some good-bye sex to tide her over, too."

"How often do I have to tell you, humans don't work like that," Sam said, but ambled over to the couch and sat down after shoving Gabriel's legs out of the way.

Gabriel’s feet clutched at Sam's thigh through the blanket. "You think Jess doesn't want to have sex with you before you wander off for a couple of weeks?"

"I'm going a research hunt, Gabriel, not disappearing off the face of the earth. I'll make it to the hoot."

Gabriel stretched newly golden wings – even with the feathers still unfurling, his wings looked awesome, all gold and caramel and toffee – and gave Sam a dubious look.

"Okay, that's it. You're just going to keep making sad faces and doubting me all night, aren't you?" Sam asked.

"Sorry," Gabriel said, more petulant than contrite.

"Yeah, yeah," Sam said, and leaned over to hug Gabriel – and wrap the blanket around him so that his wings were trapped. At his surprised squawk, Sam pulled him off the couch and hefted Gabriel onto his shoulder.

"Ooof. You need to lay off the sweets," Sam said as he stood up. "And stop wriggling. I might drop you."


"You're not going to stop moping, so we're going upstairs. I might – might – unwrap you if you're good."

Driving to the hoot was nerve wracking, if only because Jess kept wanting to check in with the Center’s angels, most of who were flying there by themselves. That left her and Audrey driving the RV with Gabriel – his feathers were mostly past the pinfeather stage, but not quite ready to fly long distances – Rachel, and Israfel in the back with the children. Fortunately, most of the kids traveled well, even their newest orphans. Cheriour kept clamoring for milk, but zie was mostly jealous of newly rescued baby Adirael who was getting the lion's share of the blue women's attention.

Gabriel finally swept the kid up onto his back and perched himself on the couch behind the driver's seat, leaving him free to work on his laptop and giving Cheriour the attention zie wanted. Jess could hear faint music coming out of the laptop, the volume turned so far down that it barely registered for her.

"Do you need me to take over?" Audrey asked, joining her up front.

"Thanks. I'll pull into the next rest stop and we can switch there," Jess said.

"There's one in two miles," Gabriel said.

"Good catch," Jess replied. She was confident Gabriel knew what he was talking about. Angels rarely got lost traveling; if they did, it was either because of an ear infection or a disorienting blast of infrasound that stopped them from hearing the earthsong.

Gabriel trilled and went back to his laptop.

The rest stop was exactly where Gabriel said it’d be. It wasn't that big, but there were bathrooms, which meant she didn't have to use the RV's tiny one.

"Okay, everybody, out and stretch your legs," Audrey said, and popped out to hold the doors for the kids, who tumbled out in a chirping mass requiring corralling.

"They're going to run themselves ragged," Israfel said.

Rachel twitched her wings and made to follow the kids. "Good. That'll make the rest of the trip easy."

Jess watched as Gabriel helped Israfel settle baby Adirael on her back and get out the door. He paused before he went through himself.

"You okay, sister?"

"Fine. Just keep the kids on the other side for a minute, okay?"

"Sure thing."

Jess waited for him to get through the door, then climbed out herself, stretching and groaning in relief before making a beeline for the bathroom.

"Need some help?" Audrey had been watching the angels while she waiting for Jess to come back, leaning against the RV's side, her floppy traveling prosthetics flapping in the wind – sturdy enough to be believable but a lower grade of fake wings and decidedly less realistic than the official set each of them had, covered and secured to the roof. The travel sets were the sort that they’d pass out to all the employees at the resort so that the hoot would go without a hitch – dark, juvenile grey, all of them with the speculum blue as any reds would invite too much notice, even with the juvenile wing colorations. Audrey pulled another pair from the RV and helped Jess slip them on.

That done, she was ready to go ride herd on their flock of mini-angels.

Gabriel was glad to let the rest of his siblings descend and take the hatchlings off his hands when they got to the hoot. Given Rachel's relieved look, and the way Israfel kept rubbing her breast under her poncho, he wasn't the only one. The young-at-foot wound hopeful fall asleep before midnight, and Adirael and Cheriour could bruise some other senior sister's teats.

"C'mon, let's see who has come this year," he said as Jess and Audrey waved goodbye. His human sisters had to go administrate, but Gabriel was checked in, had his badge with his correct relationship status – three quarters full, only the red woman's quarter grey and empty – and was ready to mingle.

"Oh, yes. Let's!" Israfel perked up. She was less than a decade past fledging herself, and her chances were good to find a pair of reds to marry, along with one of her brothers from the Center.

Rachel gave him a sour look as Israfel sped off.

"What?" he asked. If Rachel weren't so stuck on Castiel, she could have found people to marry – it wasn't his fault that she wanted as a brother-husband the one angel who was more interested in fucking humans than Gabriel himself, and less able to accomplish it. At least, that's what Gabriel assumed was the reason Castiel allowed himself to be crammed into Dean Winchester's car and dragged around the country, with his wings never changing from immature and gloomy charcoal. If he'd at least gotten to sex with someone, his wings would have molted into a pattern advertising that. Even Rachel had managed that some years ago, her wings sandy and grey instead of charcoal. "You should look around, there might be a half-marriage looking for a blue-wife to make them square. Waiting around for Castiel to wake up and smell the coffee is a terrible plan."

Rachel flicked her wings, and stalked into the hall where the matchmaking was going to take place.

"I'm just saying!" Gabriel yelled after her.

Kali had come to the international hoot partly out of desperation. It wasn't so much the usual meeting of local families, to celebrate and socialize and perhaps marry siblings off to one another. This was a carefully managed, very human attempt to get every reasonably stable adult angel married and producing clutches of eggs, overlaid with a veneer of academic respectability.

Kali had enough of that, back when she was young and adventurous and wanted to see the world, and all the humans in it. That time had been over, when Raymond Colvin had declared himself not her brother, but a potential lover; she'd fled the disgusting situation and settled into a life back home, in the high hills.

But now with her wife's death and her sister's theft of her husbands, there had been no place in entire Western Ghat that Kali could have turned, and she was not about to descend into servitude to her viper of a sister like a decrepit grandmother. Wayand Station, outside of Kaletta in Kerala, among the mountains and coffee growers, had taken her in temporarily, but had packed her off to Canada and the Laurentian Angel Research Center as soon as they could – they hadn't wanted Kali to disrupt their little orphan family with her adulthood. A pity really.

This evening, she was now stuck shepherding a dissolute red brother around for his nest-sister. Melchior obviously wished to get her brother settled in a marriage so he would stop interfering in hers – she'd taken their other nest-sibling Caspar as her brother-husband, but Balthazar was a third-egg child, and without a sister-wife of his own. Kali had no trouble understanding why, as the red’s wings were sand and ashy yellow, clearly declaring that he'd had sex with both genders of blues but hadn’t yet formed a bond consistent enough to molt into the metallic colors of courtship. No sensible person would want someone so unreliable that zie couldn't even pair into we-two union.

At least Lal had been left with Caspar for the evening. Melchior's brother-husband was quite a good father, and Kali was confident that her infant would be fine for the time being. It was a relief to be able to trust others with Lal's care, as she'd had her infant on her back since zie was a month old, and she hoped that she’d be able to find a blue husband to pair with. She needed at least one father for her child, and reliable brother-husbands were hard to come by.

“My my, look at that," Balthazar murmured as Kali stood beside him, trying to make him look respectable with her presence. If some blues thought they were together, at least long enough to approach them, Kali would consider Melchior's request fulfilled and start presenting herself in earnest without bothering to include Balthazar as a potential husband. Her wings might have greyed with widowhood, but she was still young enough produce eggs if she could find a blue-wife to kindle her, and a blue-husband to call her eggs into being. The Appalachian angels were in dire need reds, even more so than the Laurentian population; it seemed likely that she would marry again.

"There," Balthazar nodded to a knot of blues that had just come through the door. One was a young woman, her wings just two tones of grey – probably just over her fledge. The second was a woman in her prime, with sand and grey motley wings, and not unattractive, standing in a no-nonsense way that Kali rather liked. The third was a blue man with wings of gold and honey who stood with his back to her. The line of his body was familiar, and when she realized, Kali straightened.

"So you know our Gabriel?" Balthazar purred.

"He is not your Gabriel, unless your wings lie," Kali spat.

Balthazar smirked, and said lightly, "I wouldn't have him even if he came with a perfect territory, a blue-wife with turquoise wings, and an endless supply of wine. He fucked his brother, you know." He was watching sideways, clearly anticipating her reaction with glee.

"He fucked a human who said he was red, then said he was blue. I know that," Kali corrected.

"His brother."

"A human, who was untrustworthy." Kali glared at Balthazar, and snatched his drink out of his hand. She tossed the alcohol back in one go, delighted with how the glee fell off his face. She pivoted neatly on one foot and stalked off, shaking her wings into a display of their length and fineness. Even widowed, even greyed, she was finer than any one of the insipid Laurentian angels she had been forced to abide with.

The two blue women saw her coming, and their faces changed. Gabriel noticed and swung around to see who they were staring at, and his wings shot up in surprise when he saw her. And then, they stretched and beat the air for a moment, pure display of their golden gradations, from sunlight to honey to crystallized sugar. He was, again and always, dangerously attractive.

And, by the ridiculous badge pinned to his shirt, half-married and only looking for a red-wife.

"Hello, Gabriel," Kali purred.

The bar was open, the wine was good, and Kali was talking to him. Gabriel would have said he was dreaming, but his dreams didn't tend to utter wish fulfillment. They tended to usual dada-esque interpretations of daily life and childhood anxiety nightmares that were always too vivid and clear.

"What are your spouses' names?" Kali asked.

Gabriel sighed, and said in English, "Sam and Jess."

Kali raised an eyebrow.

"Samuel Winchester and Jessica Moore."

"Oh, Hangs-by-Zir-Feet," Kali said. "Humans again?"

"It's not like that!" Gabriel yelped.

Kali looked extremely dubious.

"It's not! Let me explain, Jess is works at the Center. She's here, you can meet her and perceive how much she means to me, how good she is to me as my sister-wife."

"And your red-husband? Where is he?"

"He's a hunter-archivist, on a field research hunt. With my nest-brother – you remember him, Rain-All-Day? And with his own eldest nest-brother. They'll be here tomorrow or the next day."

Kali gave him a dubious look, but downed her drink. She stood and shook out her wings – her wings that Gabriel remembered as silver and red all laced around with black, not muted to widow-grey and rust.

"Come with me. I am staying with the LARC contingent, under Waterfall-Sing's wing."

"She didn't stick you with babysitting Not-Remotely-Believable, did she?" Gabriel asked. Melchior's attempts to get Balthazar at least half-married were sure to drive them both crazy before they succeeded.

"Yes, she did. He's never going to get married unless someone is truly desperate. And more foolish than I would credit."

There was another angel on the couch in front of the fireplace when Jess made it downstairs. Dark skinned, petite, red, with striking features and wings muted to grey but still showing some elaborate patterning – a widow then, and not one Jess was familiar with. She looked close to Gabriel's age, which put them within a decade of each other. Jess wondered if she was Canadian, or from one of the Asian communities, when Gabriel poked his head out of the kitchenette. He was dressed semi-respectably in jeans and a chef's apron, but nothing else.

"Morning, Jess. Acornmeal okay?" There were downy little wing stubs hooked over Gabriel's shoulders, and the top of a tiny head just visible behind his shoulder.

"Jess?" Gabriel repeated.

"Uhm, yes, that's fine," she said, and watched Gabriel turn around to attend the stove. The baby clinging to his back had red speculums on zir wings, which solved where Gabriel had gotten a baby from – obviously zie belonged the red-widow who was lounging on their couch.

"That's Lal," the red-widow said as she came over to sit at the breakfast table.

"How old is zie?" Jess asked, falling immediately into small talk. Some things were universal – parents always wanted to talk about their kids. It was certainly a better topic to start with than 'what the hell are you doing in my cabin at 7 in the morning?'

"Just over two seasons," the red-widow said. The angel turned to watch Gabriel puttering with the oatmeal, and a fond smile broke out on her face.

"This is Kali," Gabriel indicated as he came to the table with a tray of acornmeal, sliced fruit, and maple syrup. "She's from the Wayanad Station by way of the Laurentian center."

Kali tilted her head at that, "Temporarily, with the Laurentian center."

Gabriel's sister-wife was interesting, Kali had to admit. Gabriel did have a talent for connecting with humans, and Kali could understand his attraction to them when he was around. He made them more interesting somehow.

Since Jess had to administrate at the academic portion of the hoot, Kali decided to follow her around. Gabriel was happy to take Lal and show off his child-caretaking skills. Truly, he'd bragged, "This little one will be fine with me. You'll see, everyone will congratulate me on how fat and happy zie is."

"You aren't zir blue-father, Gabriel."

"I can pretend..." he'd said with a smile, and sauntered off, with Lal curled sleepily over his shoulders.

Now it was hours later, Kali was tired of directing humans to the various rooms where research was being discussed – angel xenology, angel tissue in biomedicine, angelic remediation of water pollution, angel and changes in their rights, angels and intellectual property, on and on, everything that could be discussed about angels, often by idiots who rarely even talked to angels.

"Hey, Kali, are you all right?" Jess finally asked. "You keep rubbing your breast bone."

Kali looked up at the human, with her fine but fake wings, and asked "Where is Gabriel?"

"Let me check," Jess said, and then turned and spoke into her walkie-talkie. Kali winced at the unpleasant crackle the thing produced, and the badly distorted and tinny voices that came out of it.

"He's over at the storytelling, apparently. I bet he's using Lal to attract all the human visitors. He's probably neck deep in grad students." Jess smiled, and turned over the care of their worktable to two humans that Kali didn't know.

Kali had to follow Jess, because all the directional material was written for humans – she was perfectly literate in English and Hindi, thank you anyway, as well as speaking Devi and Enochian – and thus very hard for her to interpret. Also Jess' contact had not described the earthsong of Gabriel's location, so she couldn't find it on her own, even paying attention to the local registers that even a young-at-foot child could have used to navigate.

"There you are," Jess cried as they ducked into an open pavilion and found Gabriel sitting on the floor with a good dozen blue and red young-at-foot clustered around him.

Her old friend smiled up at the human, and when she came to stand by him,extended a wing to wrap around her and nudge her down. He then said to the children, "This is my sister-wife, She-Sees. She is clever and always interested in stories, though she doesn't speak well herself. Who wants to tell She-Sees a story?"

A dozen piping voices started chirruping "Me! Me!" as the children beat their stubby wings in excitement.

"Black-Soil-Fire, would you pick who will tell their story first?"
Kali pursed her lips and looked at Gabriel. Jess was leaning against him, her false wings trailing out behind her in a posture that would have said relaxed confidence in an angel. Gabriel was leaning back companionably against her, as if she were his moiety-sister and could be relied upon.

Perhaps Gabriel flying three with Jess and the yet to be seen Sam, human though they were, wasn't as dubious an idea as Kali had thought.

"How about I tell a story instead?"

"Yah!" the children chirruped. Jess looked suddenly surprisingly interested, and Kali began telling the story of how the Most Wonderful Monkey found the wife of his friends where she had been stolen away to.

Sam had to open the doors for Castiel as the angel carried Dean over his shoulder, as his brother was all but deadweight from the drinking. Sam was cursing the moment he'd walked into the bar; he should have just found Jess and Gabriel instead and let Dean get into trouble on his own. After all, he was two days late due to unexpected slime monster, and even though he'd called, Jess and Gabriel had to have missed him.

Anyway, Dean should have known better to try to outdrink an angel, but of course Dean had to try to win against the red that had been flirting with Castiel. Thank god that Balthazar had decided to settle their rivalry by drinking instead of fighting. Angels tended to kick each other to death when fighting over territory or potential mates.

Once inside, Sam dropped Dean on the couch and sighed.

"Go to bed, Sam," Castiel said.

Sam frowned. "I should—"

"I'll take care of Dean," Castiel said, as toneless as he ever was. His wings rose and flicked out before resettling, a gesture Sam knew meant muted exasperation; he couldn't have been pleased to have Dean picking fights over him. Especially since Dean seemed to be determined to cockblock Cas' attempts to attract a red-moiety male, which wouldn't have been so bad if Dean would just nerve up and make a move on Cas himself, but keeping anyone else from doing so was just ruining Castiel's chances of ever getting married. Sam couldn't fault Castiel for not wanting to die of old age still stuck in adolescence.

Upstairs there was a bathroom with a jacuzzi tub big enough that Sam could probably stretch out full length, and two bedrooms. He stuck his head in the first one and saw Jess' suitcase by the bed.

"Sam?" Gabriel's sleepy voice came from behind him.

Turning, Sam caught sight of his angel lover standing in the opposite doorway, brown hair tousled from sleep, his now-golden wings slightly disarrayed – and now that they were all grown in, Gabriel's wings were fucking gorgeous, all honey and caramel except for the blue speculum that marked his moiety. He yawned and blinked his eyes, the nictitating membrane flicking out sideways and back for an instant. He was wearing nothing but a familiar set of striped hipster briefs.

"Are you wearing Jess' underwear? Gabriel, those are women's underwear."

"They're mine now," Gabriel replied. "When did you get in?"

"A couple of hours ago. You and Jess were in some meeting – where is she?"

"At another one – adult women only." Gabriel made an airy gesture. "They're probably gossiping about whose husbands are the best lays."

Sam really didn't want to think about Jess bragging about his sexual prowess to a bunch of adult female angels.

"Come to bed, Sam."

"I thought I'd wait for Jess—eep!"

Gabriel was small enough compared to Sam that Sam could pick him up and throw him over his shoulder, but Gabriel was more than strong enough to do the same to Sam. He flailed awkwardly, being entirely too big to fit neatly over Gabriel’s shoulder, even though he wrapped arms and wings around Sam to steady him.

"Bed," Gabriel said as he dropped Sam onto the sheets, stripped him with ruthless efficiency, and climbed in after him. The angel wrapped his feet around Sam's knees and sat on him. "You need to sleep... want a blowjob?"


"Is that a yes?"

Sam sighed, and nodded.

"Good," Gabriel purred.

"Kissing first," Sam said.


"I like kissing!"

Gabriel responded with a snort, but obligingly pressed his mouth against Sam's. That was usual, a quick chaste press of lips, and then Sam had to take the initiative, had to grasp Gabriel in position and open him up with hand and tongue. Gabriel would let Sam kiss him until he was breathless, and smile through it all; Sam liked it, the gentle responsiveness and willingness to have Sam lead.

Sam kissed Gabriel until he was breathing hard, and then drew back to press their foreheads together. He lets his hands drift down to play with the hair at the nape of Gabriel's neck, and further down, to the triangular patch from Gabriel's shoulders to between his wings. His feathers puffed out as Sam stroked over his brood patch.

"Hmmm... want something, Samwich?"

"You offered me a blowjob."

"I did."

"I'm collecting," Sam said, and pushed gently down on Gabriel's shoulders.

The angel smirked, stretched to lick a stripe up across Sam's cheek, and bent down to take Sam's erection in his mouth. He started humming almost immediately, his syrinx sounding deep in his chest as the vibrations traveled up to roll over Sam's cock in waves. Sam gasped hard, desperate gulps as he tugged at Gabriel's hair. The angel was wasting no time, fast and efficient and hard.

Sam panted his way through his orgasm and then flopped back on to the pillows. Gabriel scooted up to smirk down at him, his teeth bright in the dim bedroom.


"Night, Sam," Gabriel chuckled as he shoved Sam over and cuddled up behind him.

Sam mumbled what he hoped was a response but probably wasn't as he fell asleep.

Jess woke the next morning with golden courtship plumage spread over her head like a blanket of paintbrushes. She elbowed Gabriel until he shifted and let her move. He was cuddly as hell when he was asleep, but warm as hell too. Angels ran several degrees hotter than humans normally. It was great for cuddling in winter, but not so much in summer.

“Where’s Kali?”

"Sleeping with Sam," Gabriel murmured.

"She hasn't met Sam," Jess hissed.

"He's a red," Gabriel said and pressed his face down into a pillow. "Her brother and our husband. They should figure out if they like each other before we try to get square."

That was a perfectly reasonable idea for an angel, but Jess was pretty sure Sam wasn’t going to take waking up with a stranger in bed with him in stride. She slid out of bed, grabbed her robe, and went to the other bedroom.

Sam was awake, clearly so, looking boggled and mildly terrified. Kali was lying on the bed and blocking Sam in against the wall. Lal lay comfortably nestled in Kali's arms, nursing quietly as zir mother slept.

"Help?" Sam mouthed as he noticed Jess in the doorway.

Jess motioned for Sam to climb out over the foot of the bed. Sam did so, giving Jess quite a show as he clambered out stark naked. He grabbed a pair of boxer briefs off the floor once he escaped, and tugged them on when he was safely out in the hall.

"Who the heck was that?" Sam asked, a bit bug-eyed.

"Kali, from Wayanad Station."

"What she doing in my bed? Where's Gabriel?"

"He came in last night and wanted to cuddle. They switched places."

"… why?"

"Because you're a red, I'm a blue, and you cuddle with your siblings when you're feeling down or anxious. Oh, and Gabriel wants to marry Kali. Apparently they had a thing back in the seventies."


Jess tucked Sam’s hand into the crook of her arm. "Let's get some breakfast. Things always make more sense after breakfast."

"Good morning, Jessica, Sam," Castiel greeted them as they descended to the ground floor. He was wearing distinctly rumpled clothes—though not his favorite garment, an oversized trenchcoat. Jess glanced around the open living room and spotted Dean, sacked out on the couch and clearly dead to the world. Which meant Castiel had either slept on one of the chairs, or on the window ledge, because Cas was bad with feelings and good with rules – a blue didn't sleep in the same bed as a red unless they were having sex, or at least open to the possibility.

And Dean Winchester didn't pay any attention to angel culture, but was so straight it was amazing he could bend enough to tie his shoes. Sometimes Jess wanted to slap her brother-in-law until a clue or three sank in.

"You made breakfast, Castiel? Thanks!" Sam pulled away from her, drawn to the lure of pancakes and acornmeal. Angels did love their nuts, and Jess had made sure the cabins had been stocked accordingly for this hoot.

"You're welcome, Sam."

"Thanks, Castiel. Gabriel and Kali will be down soonish, probably."

"Kali?" Castiel blinked once.

"She's a red from India, recently widowed. Why, do you know her?"

"She was sleeping in my bed!" Sam said. Jess wondered if Sam knew just how much he sounded like he was complaining about Goldilocks.

"She and Gabriel courted several decades ago." Castiel frowned. "She left Gabriel after the … problem with Raymond Colvin."

Jess winced at that. Well, that explained it; Colvin was the one who has figured out just how important and immutable moiety was to angels back in the 1970s by running into it face-first. None of the angels at the Center would talk to him after he'd switched his assumed moiety, and he'd had to move to Peru to continue his work.

The mess had left Gabriel halfway to adulthood with a broken square, and his maturation had faded until all he had was the broadest shoulders of any of the males at the Center and undisputed status as ranking angel. Pretty poor compensation for what had to have been horrible emotional betrayal from Gabriel's point of view.

Castiel flicked his wings in a shrug, and placed a plate of pancakes and acornmeal in front of Jess. He glanced at Dean, and cracked two eggs into the skillet.

There was a thump, and then Gabriel clattered down the stairs, shoeless and wearing only the candy-striped hipster briefs he'd stolen from Jess weeks ago.

"Hello, Eldest Blue Brother," Castiel greeted him in Enochian. "There is food for the taking. How did fucking Sam go last night? It didn't last long, from what I heard."

Gabriel grinned as he sat at the table, "Sam goes off quickly when I sing with him in my mouth. I’m hoping to get another round in this morning if he has the stamina. How about some maple syrup with those pancakes?"

Jess dropped her face into her hands. Thank god Sam's Enochian wasn't that good, because the angels were being typical angels gossiping within their moiety – extremely explicit with few boundaries. Though from Sam's face he figured something was up; it would have been hard to miss they were talking about him.

"English, guys, and keep it suitable for mixed company," she said, nodding at Sam.

"My apologies," Castiel said.

"Aww, can't I brag about our husband?" Gabriel drawled playfully, draping his wing around Sam's shoulders for a moment.

"Is that what you were doing?" Sam asked with a sideways look.

"Of course," Gabriel said. Sam didn't look like he believed him.

"So why did I wake up with a strange angel in my bed this morning?"

"Kali's not a stranger. She's your sister," Gabriel corrected. "Hopefully, she'll like you enough to marry us. She already likes me, and thinks Jess is pretty neat 'for a human'."

Sam's face twisted up. "I'd like to have been introduced before she got into bed with me."

"But she's a red! We've only got until the end of the hoot to convince her to stay with us!"

Sam made another face, then pushed back from the table. "I'm going to go shower."

"I can scrub your back?" Gabriel’s face lit up in a hopeful and lecherous grin.

Sam frowned, and looked at Jess.

She nodded. "I'm due at the morning paper presentations in a half-hour. I'm managing the material culture track until noon, so we can meet up for lunch at the lodge. Your wings are in the closet in my room – there are a lot of un-aculturated angels around, so you'll need them."

"Yeah, okay. You coming, Gabriel?"

"Yup," Gabriel gulped down the last of his juice, and followed Sam up the stairs with a spring in his step. Jess watched them go, and didn't miss the way Gabriel was staring at Sam's ass. The angel's golden wings flicked minutely with every step, anticipation and eagerness in the gestures.

"He's just worried about his courtship feathers, Jessica," Castiel said as he began to clear the table. "Sam has been gone from you two for several weeks, after all. After Sam leaves semen in him a few times, I'm sure Gabriel will step back and let you have your turn fucking your husband."

"Thanks, Cas," Jess said, trying not to giggle at the angel. "I know you mean that in the best way."

"Of course I do. I would like to see you square." Castiel paused and looked at Jess for a moment. "How is Kali treating you? Is the sex good? Gabriel always said she was fierce."

Jess spluttered into her orange juice, and wanted to bang her head against the table. Castiel was, well, Castiel. "We've been waiting until Sam got back, thanks for asking and please don't."

Castiel nodded, turning towards the sink. His dark wings lay low and tight on his back. "I just wish you all the best."

"And I thank you for that, but remember, I'm human. I'm not comfortable talking about my sex life."

"You humans are all so prudish," Castiel sighed, and glanced over to where Dean was still sacked out on the couch.

Jess decided it was time that discretion was the better part of valor and escaped upstairs to dress and put on her prosthetic wings for the day.

Gabriel did scrub Sam’s back. And his front. And ran his hands up and down Sam's dick until Sam shoved him laughing out of the shower so that he could actually get clean.

Sam wound up with a towel around his hips, digging through the closet in Jess's bedroom. She seemed to have packed a selection of Sam's clothes that projected his research librarian side instead of the hunter one – which was just fine with Sam, but Dean was sure to tease him about the sweater vests and blazers, because Dean never had anything better to do on his downtime than to tease Sam.

"You are quite well formed," came an unfamiliar voice, low and female, from the doorway.

Sam froze, and turned around carefully. "Kali, right?"

"Yes," she said. She wasn't very tall – a few inches shorter than Gabriel – but her posture was all poise and control, and her widow-grey wings were noticeably large even folded calmly on her back. She was dressed in a black skirt and a red sleeveless blouse, obviously modified to accommodate her wings. Her hair was not quite shoulder-length, and had smoky tips – another sign she'd molted at least once since being widowed. She looked Sam over with dark, evaluating eyes, and he wished he'd gotten his clothes on before she showed up, because he felt even more naked than wearing only a towel could account for.

After a few more moments of evaluation, she nodded and crossed her arms over her chest. "You should go to Gabriel. He has missed you, and his anxiety is unpleasant. Go fuck it out of him, and then dress and come downstairs. I will expect you within the hour."

She turned on her heel and walked away, her wings lifting once to resettle the baby clinging to her back.

Sam sputtered, and grabbed his clothes before he ducked across the hall.

"You really want to marry her?"

Gabriel looked up from where he was sitting on the edge of the bed, idly perusing a book. He was still in his underwear. "Yeah, Kali's great," he said dreamily.

"She's terrifying!" Sam yelped.

"Well, yeah, that too. Isn't she great?"

Sam just stared at him. Gabriel stared back. "What's wrong?"

"You... don't see anything wrong with her being a scary, scary woman?"

"Scary women are hot, Sam," Gabriel said, sounding like he was telling Sam the sky was blue.

"Jess isn't scary.”

"Jess is my sister."

"...Right." Sam dropped to sit beside Gabriel, who obligingly lifted a wing to settle over Sam's back. He curled against Sam, his head resting on Sam's shoulders, his feet tucked up to bump against Sam's knees, and a hand stroking gently over Sam's chest.

"Really?" Sam asked.

"I missed you."

"I was on Star Trek too," Gabriel complained, as he watched Dean fawn over Barakiel. Admittedly, Barakiel was still gorgeous with her bold turquoise and black wings, but her husband Muriel looked like he wanted to start a fight over Dean's gushing.

"It was a two-part episode, you were in three scenes and had five lines total. She," Sam nodded at the older blue, "got to come back as a recurring character on Deep Space Nine for two seasons."

Gabriel twitched his wings. "Hollywood barely hires any other angel. There's a lot of kids at Palo Alto who could make it in the business."

"I know, I met some of them when Jess was doing her internship out there."

"Right... Dean's going to get kicked if he doesn't step back." Gabriel smiled at how Muriel's feathers were bristling.

Sam rolled his eyes and went to rescue his brother before he met an unfortunate end.

Gabriel watched Sam walk away, admiring the way his legs moved under the prosthetic wings. He made a very handsome angel, though sadly the prosthetics weren't high quality ones like Jess's and were fixed into a neutral position that restricted Sam's expressions to his face and arms.

"Gabriel! Hangs-by-Zir-Feet!" came Inias' voice, abandoning English for Enochian. The younger blue hurried up through the socializing guests, ducking married squares but caroming through clusters of flirting sub-adults.

"What?" If his younger brother thought speed and clarity were needed over the politeness of talking in English for the non-fluent humans, something serious must be up.

"Two reds – fledglings! – just landed in the upper meadow."

"So?" Gabriel rolled his eyes. If Inias was upset over another discipline problem for somebody else's children... "Set their red-father on them."

"No, they're passage fliers!"

"From the silent hills?" Any passage fliers interested in coming to the hoot to look for spouses would have already landed, unless they'd run away from one of the isolationist families that had stopped singing to everyone else decades ago.

"I think so, yes!"

"Who is with them?"

"Falling-Rage-Night," Inias said. Of course it was Hester; she and Inias were almost inseparable. Gabriel had hoped they could find a couple of reds to marry at this hoot, but Hester had spent more time than was wise hissing at Castiel and Dean. It hadn't put her in a good light for potential spouses, but at least she was out and about to find two lost children.

"Sun-On-Summer-Solstice, go find," Gabriel paused, and then decided, "Quiet-Stone-Knife and Black-Soil-Fire. And She-Sees."

Inias frowned at that, but set off to find Rachel, who was reliable, Kali, who was a red he could trust, and Jessica, who they were going to need to get the children back to the Center. And none of them were adults in full plumage, unlike, for instance, Barakiel and Muriel.

He himself hurried to the door, brushing off people's concern and curiosity with practiced smiles. Once out on the balcony, he hopped up onto the railing and took off. It only took a few moments of climbing before he was high enough to look down on the upper meadow. There were two youngsters, both red, with nervously twitching wings standing opposite Hester. Neither of them had quite the courage to mantle and hiss at her, because sub-adult though she was, Hester was old enough to be an eldest sister in any family. Not that she was in the Center, because Rachel was more level-headed and just as old.

Gabriel descended in a dive, carefully alighting several wingspans away from the three of them. He beat his wings in the air for a moment, and then spread them in display before folding them back. Let the children see he was half-married, and thus unlikely to fight with them over territory.

The youngsters turned out to be a red woman who was probably just out of fledge-stage, and a youngster who was still in the throes of it – zie had flight feathers, but zir gender was still uncertain. Gabriel thought zie was probably going to be male, but zie hadn't quite reached the stage where one's genitalia differentiated yet. It was quite obvious in both their cases, because they were dressed only in a deerskin each, wrapped and tied around the waist. They had to have come from an isolationist territory; even the most remote families who were willing to interact with human had fabric nowadays.

"Sweet water and salt," Gabriel said in greeting, choosing to be formal. It might be stilted, but at least it was rules for interacting. "I am Hangs-by-Zir-Feet."

"That's a child's name," the red girl said, her wings flicking up in a gesture of disbelief she tried to stifle.

"My parents died before they could rename me," Gabriel said, feathers bristling slightly, "and I made my way alone."

"I..." she stammered. "I'm Red-Soil-in-the-Dawn." A good name for her, giving the rust and grey plumage she was sporting – even though at just out of fledge-stage she was quite young to have had sex. "I’m flying passage, and this is my sibling—"

"Banded-Agate-Toss-Stones," the almost-fledged child said. Zir voice was light, but that wasn't indicative of whether zie would be male or female – voices took years to mature to their sub-adult registers.

"You're too young to marry," Gabriel said to the child.

Zie bristled, and lifted zir wings. "I went with my sister on her passage flight. That's allowed!"

"Usually for third-egg siblings," Hester said with suspicion. Gabriel rolled his eyes and frowned at her. Banded-Agate-Toss-Stones was obviously too old to be an extra egg that Red-Soil-in-the-Dawn had laid in her mothers' nest site.

"Zie is still welcome among us, Falling-Rage-Night," Gabriel reminded her.

"This is your territory? You host this hoot?" Red-Soil-in-the-Dawn asked.

"We host this hoot," Gabriel said. He wasn't going to try to explain the idea of renting the resort for two weeks – there was no way a gathering of angels this large would have fit at the Center without fights breaking out three times a day over territory infringement and crowding, but trying to explain having a hoot on human property would only derail the conversation. "I'm the eldest blue-brother."

"Then take us to your parents," Red-Soil-in-the-Dawn demanded, and her sibling flicked zir wings in agreement.

"We haven't got any," Hester snapped.

Both children looked shocked and baffled.

"There aren't enough reds to marry. We're a collection of unmarried blue siblings," Gabriel explained, eliding the red orphans at the Center as too complicated to explain just yet. At their pointed look at his wings in their golden courtship plumage, he went on, "I'm only half-married, though I hope a red-widow will consent to our courtship and make us square."

"An awfully lopsided square," Hester muttered in English. Gabriel frowned at her, but the children were isolationists; they certainly didn’t speak English.

"Gabriel!" came from above, and then Rachel dropped right at their feet. Her landing startled the children badly, but Rachel was like that.

Kali landed further away, and released Jess from her grip.

"Here, this is my Eldest Blue-sister, Quiet-Stone-Knife; Black-Soil-Fire, your sister who I am courting; and She-Sees, who is my sister-wife."

The two children eyed Kali with caution – the widow grey in her feathers was no guarantee she wouldn't see them as territory rivals, after all – and Jess with confusion. Jess's wings were obvious prosthetics, but she was clearly passing as a blue to two youngsters who had never interacted with humans at all.

"Salt," Kali said, her Enochian accented with her native Devi. "I am glad to meet new siblings."

Gabriel fell back to let Kali and Jess sooth the worried youngsters, and turned to Rachel and Hester. This was probably going to get tricky.

The fledglings were just that, fledglings – ridiculous and full of poor judgment, but once the girl spilled their story, Kali had to sympathize. Red-Soil-in-the-Dawn fled an arranged match her fathers had hatched for her; the girl’s own red-mother had gone grey a season past, and her fathers and blue-mother had decided to exchange Red-Soil-in-the-Dawn with another family in the same situation, will she or nill she. Her parents would replace their aged spouse instead of stepping down gracefully in favor one of their children, like a decent and sensible square would do.

Red-Soil-in-the-Dawn hadn't wanted to be exchanged for someone else, forced into a new family with wife and husbands she didn't know and who would have had years of familiarity to conspire against her. Especially when it turned out that the family she would have been sent to was the parents of the age-mate she'd gotten her wing colors with, a sweet blue who would have been her son if she'd gone to the marriage.

"Awkward," Jessica said. "I can see why she wanted to avoid it."

Kali had merely lifted an eyebrow at the human blue.

"Don't give me that look. It's a known problem with the isolationist families. The entire subculture is turning in on itself, cannibalizing itself, and we can't do much to help because they don't want to deal with humans."

"Can you speak instead of howl, please?" Red-Soil-in-the-Dawn asked.

"It's not howling, sister." Banded-Agate-Toss-Stones tilted zir head. "It's how humans talk, I think."

"Sounds like howling to me."

Jess rolled her eyes. "And that's what I get to work with." She grasped the keys of her voder, and with manipulation managed to produce the doubled syllables of Enochian. "I speak weakly. I understand speech with robustness."

"That is terrible," Kali said, her wings lifting. "You sound like you're damaged."

"It's limited, but I can get the duo-phonems out with the voder."

"Did you hurt yourself in a crash?" Banded-Agate-Toss-Stones leaned in to look at the voder. "Your speech is very stilted, She-Sees."

"I speak weakly," Jess repeated. "Please, tell more of your story. You flew from home to avoid marriage?"

"We’d heard of the hoot, and where it would in the earthsong, so I left and brought my sibling with me. I fathers made it hard for me to pair with Moon-Water-Trees, but if I could find a wife here, and a brother-husband, maybe we could upset my parents and rip them out of the nest before they find a way to replace my failing red-mother with a younger woman."

Kali snorted. "I would applaud your ambition, but now you are without anyone at all. Of course we will support you as a sister, but almost all of the unmarried reds are more than a decade older than you, and some of them are quite unsuitable anyway, even if you did want to marry them. You should look to the blues for a wife to make you half-married and hope your sibling matures into a brother-husband."

The final night of the hoot, Gabriel called aloud – not quite a boom, since he really couldn't pull off those yet, but certainly loud enough to alert the entire resort – and got a surprising number of angels to show up. All of his siblings from the Center, of course, and the few like Raphael and Ioliel who'd married out during previous years, and even visitors from up and down the mountains.

"So, I'm pretty sure you all know why I called you here," he said.

That got him hoots of laughter, and soft booms from the back, where some of the less acculturated angels were standing. Hillbillies, the lot of them.

Jess, standing off to his side, looked hilariously amused where she had an arm hooked around Sam and her other arm tight in Kali's grasp.

"Yeah, right right, settle down," Gabriel said futilely. Their assembled guests wanted to tease more than they wanted to hear him announce his own marriage.

"Attend!" Kali boomed suddenly. Her voice was thinner than an adult's should be – probably the effects of widowhood—but at least her syrinx was developed enough to properly boom. "Attend! I, Black-Soil-Fire, am taking the territory where Hangs-by-Zir-Feet is Eldest Blue-brother and making it my own. Who challenges me for it?"

Gabriel stared. That was Kali, daring anyone to challenge her. Unfortunately, someone might!

Except no one did, and a moment later, Jess stepped forward with her voder and carefully said, "I, She-Sees, am taking the territory where Hangs-by-Zir-Feet is Eldest Blue-brother. He is my brother-husband, and Kali is my wife."

There was some muttering, mostly from the back, but when Sam stepped up, and pulled a voice recorder they quieted down. He pressed a button, and a stilted, awkward announcement came forth. "I, Too-Tall-Truth, am taking the territory where Hangs-by-Zir-Feet is Eldest Blue-brother. He is my husband, and Kali is my sister-wife, and She-Sees is my wife." He and Jess must have used a computer to come up with that recording, because Sam's Enochian was terrible – completely inadequate for live speech. The synthesized voice was pretty bad at sounding like it was spoken by a person, but it was at least better than Sam butchering Enochian on his own.

At least the chattering had finally stopped. Gabriel drew himself up, flicked his wings out in display once, so that everyone could see his speculum and the golden sheen of courtship on his wings. "I, Hangs-by-Zir-Feet , am taking the territory where I live now, and becoming Blue Father for all my siblings. Too-Tall-Truth is my husband, and Kali is my sister-wife, and She-Sees is my wife. Who challenges me for it?"

When no one did, Gabriel breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Oh, and we're going to have a party as soon as I molt to adulthood. You're all invited. It'll be a blast."

Gabriel woke three weeks later in the bed in his room at Sam and Jess's house to find Lal pulling feathers loose, which was more than a little upsetting: he wasn't due to molt until autumn, but squaring up seemed to have advanced that. He hoped he wouldn’t go through another hard full molt and spend another two weeks naked of everything but down.

"Gbf!" Lal babbled, and thrust a handful of shed feathers in Gabriel's face.

"Yes, I see that." Gabriel tried prying them out of Lal's hand, but the baby seemed to have decided they were treasures to be kept and chewed on, instead of shed feathers to be collected for disposal or sale. Keeping his molted feathers for the baby would be traditional; unfortunately, unscrupulous janitors and determined witches were always after unwatched angel feathers. The black market for them was too intense for Gabriel to let his feathers go astray. Especially given some of the uses angel feathers could be put to, if one were determined or desperate or very reckless.

Gabriel was kind of pleased – not by Lal's playful action, of course – by the fact that he was going through molt so soon, no matter how inconvenient it was. He and Kali hadn't been having sex that long, after all. If it had taken him another six months to molt over, he wouldn't have been surprised.

Jess pointed out to him "that you're already primed to mature, Gabriel, so it's not that surprising that you converted so fast. You almost did it back in the 70s, right?" when she came home after work. Since he'd stayed home to deal with the molting, she came to his room, and helped him scratch away some of his old down, that was buff and brown and golden and very very itchy.

At his nod, she went on, "We kind of expected it. Dr. Visyak thought it might take a few months more, but you already went through some of the internal changes years ago."

"Like what?"

"Well, your syrinx is more complex those of any of your siblings. You couldn't boom, quite, but your voice traveled the farthest. You've got the broadest shoulders of your brothers – you already had that flush of hormones that get the bones to lengthen, back when you almost had a square. We think the bones change because breeding males spend the most time carrying babies around of any angels, but we're not quite sure. There's a lot evolutionary Just So Stories we want to avoid making if we can."

"So I'm not going to get a nose like the Elephant's Child no matter how often Lal tries to pull mine off, huh?"

Jess rolled her eyes at him. "Stop being ridiculous, and tell me what you want for the party. You did promise everyone that we'd have a party after you molted."

"I want cake."

"Of course."

"And a pony."

Jess did a double-take. "...What?"

The week after Gabriel did a partial molt – he lost most of his down, and it came back as a brilliant blue that only showed when he moved his stiff flight feathers just right, as enticing and coy as a temple dancer – they had a party. Jess set it up, very well in a very short time if Kali did say so herself.

The party was a good party. All of the neighbors whose territories abutted theirs came themselves to meet Kali and her spouses and formally recognize them as the parents of the Center. Kali wasn't surprised by it, but she was a bit shocked to realize that some of her new daughters were old enough to be her...well, her next youngest nest-sibling, anyway. The locals were gossiping, of course, about the usual topics of who'd foraged into uninvited into someone else's territory, whose spouse was wandering off to spend time with an unmarried (or married) neighbor of the opposite moiety, whose children were maturing and what their marriage prospects

She was almost relieved when a large human vehicle wallowed up the road. It was large and bulging, and unlike the sleeker ones that she'd become used to at the Center and in the human town of Aimes Ferry.

"Who is that, Sam?" she asked her brother-husband. He'd straightened noticeably when he'd seen the vehicle, so he must recognize it..

"That's Bobby's truck. He practically my second father."

Kali trailed Sam as he went to greet his kinsman. It turned out that Bobby was a stout older human, grey as a widow – though that didn't mean much for humans, Kali thought she had heard his wife was dead. A blue-wife, since he seemed to be Sam's red-father, from all that she had heard of the man.

When Sam helped him out of the vehicle and into a complicated device that allowed him to sit and yet propel himself on wheels. Kali realized that he had minimal use of his legs. Given that humans only had four limbs, the inability to use two of them seemed like a great hardship. She did not think an angel would survive such a loss.

"So, you going to introduce me, Sam?" the human asked, after he'd situated himself.

"Oh... Kali, this is Bobby Singer. I've told you about him. And this is Jody Mills, his friend. Bobby, Jody, this is Kali."

To Kali's amusement, Bobby obviously thought Sam's introduction was lacking.

Kali decided to step up and be gracious in the face of Sam's awkwardness. "Sam has told me much about you, Bobby Singer. I am very pleased to meet Sam's red-father at last. And pleased to meet you as well, Jody Mills. May your we-two find another, and square."

Sam looked thunderstruck, and Bobby and Jody bemused in the way that said what she said didn't translate out in English well. Oh well, she was not going to cut herself down to only the ideas that humans easily understood.

"Shall I fetch you false wings to wear? Jody, do you declare yourself blue or red?" Hopefully they wouldn't grumble about being given false wings to wear. Some the children really were too young not to imprint on wingless humans, but no one wanted to exclude them from the party. But no one wanted to repeat Castiel's deformations of attractions and mutuality with one of their precious babies, either.

"She should be blue, Kali," Sam said.

"Red-father?" she heard Bobby ask as she went to fetch the wings.

"I'll explain later," Sam said. "Much, much later.

Flying up to the Center two months after the party, Gabriel felt full of hope with his streamers poking through his coverts. Kali had spent a good amount of time that morning teasing them to unfurl, even though they were still full of blood. Hopefully her own feathers would molt and be replaced soon – she'd had such gorgeous plumage when she was married before, silver and red in bands, every feather laced with a rim of black.

Red-Soil-in-the-Dawn was flirting with Israfel when he and Kali got in, which was well. She and her sibling were learning English as fast as they could, but it would still take some time to become proficient. That the young red had taken to Israfel was looked on with favor, especially since her sibling seemed to be maturing male – maybe the two of them would marry a pair of Gabriel's younger siblings and get them out of his feathers.

On the other hand, if that happened, Gabriel would have to help find the square a place to nest, and he dreaded that. There were very few territories unoccupied in the Appalachians and those were mostly due to disease or disaster wiping out entire families that had once held them. The Rockies were quite full and overseen by Barakiel and her family at the Palo Alto Angel Research Center. Even the Laurentian Range was at near-capacity. They might have to emigrate to Europe, which would mean either the minimally habitable north countries like Scotland and Sweden, or the human-crowded central Alps – as part of the project that was trying to reestablish angels in Europe.

Or they might wind up in an exchange to Asia – there were angels all over India, and rumors of angels in China and the more remote parts of Russia – or South America, where the angels clung to the highlands of the Andes, but were fairly prosperous for all that. There were always the research stations in various countries who'd love to foster angels who had genetics from outside the local populations. Actually, that might be best, emigration to Asia or South America, or to the experimental European attempt, even though those areas had at least as much poaching attempts and habitat loss to worry about as anywhere in North America.

That, or Gabriel would have to deal with them trying to challenge him and his square. He'd been Eldest Blue-brother, and was now becoming Blue-Father for the entire Center – it wouldn't be right to allow children to become parents. Not to mention it would cut down any chance of him and Kali hatching eggs of their own. He'd have to fight.

He didn't want to. He'd had enough fighting between family a lifetime ago.

Sam drove into the parking lot at the Center and almost hit an unfamiliar angel standing in the middle of the drive like an idiot. He swerved to avoid the tall blue, slammed the brakes, and started to get out to yell at them. Which is when the angel jumped on the hood of his car and tried to kick the windshield in. Sam all but fell out the door, trying to avoid him; he didn't even have a chance to get to his gun in the glove compartment. The rifle in his trunk was completely inaccessible with the strange blue causing mayhem on top of Sam's car. To his shock, Kali chased the blue up and over, pounding off his Mini's roof.

She was knocked out the air by a vicious upward kick that hit her in her belly and knocked her flat against the car's roof. The big blue shrieked in Enochian, definitely angry, too many syllables for Sam to catch. As he tried to grab Kali and yank her out of the angel's way, there was boom that knocked both him and the stranger angel flat.

Sam whipped his head around, and saw Gabriel, wings extended and puffed out, the new indigo blue down feathers visible in his rage. He beat the air with his wings once, twice, then threw them back so far that they slammed together behind him, a deafening wingclap that made Sam's ears ring and then go silent.

Then the ground shook, and Sam realized Gabriel was booming at the stranger. Sound so deep and strong that he could only feel it. The shock-waves rattled Sam, knocking him back across the asphalt of the parking lot. He and Kali fetched up against the curb, behind the trunk of another car. Sam could only watch in a daze as Gabriel and the stranger flapped and kicked at each other.

Whoever the stranger was, he was almost as tall as Sam, and he had the most beautiful wings Sam had ever seen on a male angel, shading from cerulean to midnight, and limned all over with gold iridescence, as gorgeous and flashy as peacock feathers.

And Gabriel seemed to hate the shit out of him. Sam's husband kicked and clawed and he could feel him booming like a cannon going off. The other angel was no slouch either; he fought back, booming all the while, and with a lucky kick managed to get Gabriel down long enough to tear at his wings. The blood went everywhere.

Kali, who'd been lying more or less dazed against Sam, struggled up, her face full of rage and terror. The stranger held Gabriel's streamer-feathers in his hands – Gabriel's newly emerged streamers. The ones that were still blood feathers, still hooked right into his circulatory system. The ones he could bleed to death through if they weren't stanched.

Sam tried to get up, but his arm didn't want to hold his weight.

The blue-winged stranger sneered over at them, and raised his foot to kick at Gabriel.

And then, very oddly, he staggered, like he'd been punched. And again, and he fell down.

Sam blinked, and realized that the stranger had been shot. The tall blue-winged stranger, who wore only a deerskin apron and a set of shell necklaces – the stranger had been an isolationist. Maybe family to Red-soil-in-the-Dawn and Banded-Agate-Toss-Stones, Sam wondered vaguely.

Sam also realized that he, Sam, had a broken arm, and it hurt.

A lot.

Jess had heard the booms, the true adult vocalizations that were sound and vibration and weapon, in her office. She'd been revising the genealogies of the Appalachian angel families, with a view to suggesting matches that should be avoided due to inbreeding. It was unpleasant work, because looking at the family trees and inbreeding coefficient for each angel in their database just emphasized how bad things were. If only they had more space to settle angels in, and more luck setting up matches at the hoots; even sending angels to repopulate Europe and the Middle East didn't seem so bad, if that was the alternative to most angels dying of old age still adolescent and without reproducing while the ones who did reproduce were more inbred than most purebred cats. If only they could settle angels on any mountain, instead of having to worry about safety from poacher after angel body parts for black magic black markets.

At first she thought the booming was just Gabriel and Kali showing off again. The booms wouldn't travel very far north or south through the mountains at this time of day, but that didn't stop the two of them. Gabriel in particular loved showing off that he was now an adult, with wings shiny with gold and blue streaks and a long-distance boom.

But the double wingclap and the rapid booming wasn't showing off, especially when an unknown angel joined in – an unknown, unexpected adult booming at the Center could only mean trouble.

She'd gone to investigate, and had been appalled to see a tall blue male land on Sam's car and start trying to kick the roof in. When Kali had intervened long enough for Sam to scramble out, Jess hoped that maybe the angel could be driven off after his tantrum ran him out of steam. Isolationists sometimes showed up just to berate the Center's residents about how un-angelic they were to rely on human support.

But then the angel had landed a vicious kick and Kali crumpled. When the angel tried to kick her in the head and Sam pulled her away, Jess ran for her office.

"Get away from them, Star-in-the-east-horizon-at-dawn!" Gabriel had bellowed, his voice clear even through the walls.

Jess had frozen for a moment, then grabbed the rifle ('A Winchester,' Sam had said, smiling in self-depreciation when she'd unwrapped his gift) out of its locker. That name – Gabriel had used that name before, one night when the angel had been maudlin and willing to reminisce about his childhood before humans. Star-in-the-east-horizon-at-dawn was his older brother – the one who'd killed their parents to take the family territory for his own, and then turned on his siblings as rivals. Gabriel had survived by running away.

When she got back out to the lobby, the scene was horrific. The strange angel – Star-in-the-east-horizon-at-dawn – had Gabriel down and was ripping out his streamer-feathers. As new as they were, as obviously new and still full blood as they were, that was an attempt to kill Gabriel in a slow and painful fashion.

There was only one thing to do.

Jess lifted the rifle to her shoulder. Aimed down the iron sights. Saw the stranger at the end of her gun.


He staggered, but she'd caught him the shoulder as he moved.

She aimed again and fired.

He went down.

"I shot a breeding male," Jess said, faintly surprised that she had managed it. Then she threw up.

The rest of the day was a blur from there. There was an ambulance to take Sam to the hospital for his concussion, perforated eardrum, and broken arm, and she had to argue with the EMTs that wanted to take Gabriel because of all the blood from his streamer-feathers – still in the blood feather stage, the other angel (Jess had to thinking of him as 'the stranger', and not Gabriel's older brother, for her own sake, because human relationships didn't map to angel ones) had made a gory mess of him. Even though Rachel and Audrey had already done the proper first aid of plucking his broken feathers out and treating him with styptic pens, he was still covered in his own blood. It had taken Dr. Visyak coming out to yell at them that they didn't have any compatible blood for Gabriel at the local hospital while the Center infirmary was stocked for angels, thank you morons, before they stopped trying to get Gabriel to agree to be transported. Thank god for Eleanor Visyak's sharp tongue. Fortunately, Kali had been scooped up by Samandiriel (Banded-Agate-Toss-Stones had chosen a name for humans to use the day before, and it was weird) and taken inside before the EMTs got there.

Audrey had to drive her down the mountain – after the police had come and gone, and after she'd check how Gabriel and Kali were doing in the infirmary. It was hours later, and she was shaking from nerves and exhaustion, but she wanted Sam. She wanted to make sure all of her square was all right.

"Hey," Sam said when she managed to get by the reception desk and find him in a room down one of the two corridors the tiny local hospital had. He had a cast on one arm, tape over one ear, and happy, drugged expression.

"Hey," she sidled up to him, and patted his unhurt shoulder. "So, it looks like you're in a cast for a while."

"Yeah. And I got awesome drugs, so I can't feel anything now." Sam smiled sunnily. Jess nodded, trying to smile.

"Kali passed yolk," she blurted. That had been horrible, as the red-winged angel had tried to be stoic about it, and had not quite succeed. Gabriel had made a horrible keen when he'd become aware of it; Jess had left her two angels curled up in the infirmary only because Sam needed her, and because Kali had all but pushed her out the door.

"Oh no, she was going to have a baby? An egg? An egg-baby?" His eyes were huge, and began to glisten.

Jess shook her head. "She was getting ready to, Dr. Vislak thinks. But there wasn't any shell or even any membrane around it, so she wasn't gravid."

"But she could have been. Poor Kali. Poor Gabriel," Sam said.

"I know, Sam. I know."

Sam continued to snuffle, and then fell into a doze. Jess sat down beside him and waited for a doctor to come tell her she could take him home.

Three days later, Sam was sore and irritable and venting to Dean on the phone. After that crazy day when Star-in-the-east-horizon-at-dawn had shown up, Sam wasn't in any condition to do anything but lie on the couch and consider how much a pain in the ass it was to have one function hand.

"The fact that the researchers in 50s called him Lucifer..." Sam grumbled on the phone to Dean, who was back in the Dakota or Idaho or someplace too far for him to show up just because Sam had almost been killed by an asshole of an angel.

"Yeah, bad news, I get that. Nobody ever matched him up to Gabriel's sonofabitch brother? I mean, isn't that what Jess and her friends do..?"

"You really have no idea how common family annihilation is, do you?"

"Come on, Sammy. How many people kill their families just so they can start having kids of their own?"

"Too many when the people are angels," Sam sighed. "What gets me is that Anna and Samandiriel – those are the two kids who showed up at the hoot; they picked the names themselves – are crying over the bastard. Even though he tried to kill me, and Kali, and Gabriel..."

Dean didn't say anything for a long moment, and then said, "He was their dad, Sam. Even though he was a shitty dad, you let them cry."

Sam winced, and felt ashamed of himself. "He was Gabriel's brother, too. Real brother, not just moiety-brother."

"Is Gabriel crying over him?"

"No, I think he got over his brother a long time ago."

"Plus, he's got you guys."

"Yeah," Sam said, and leaned back into the couch. "He's got us."

The funeral was short and kind of desultory, given that angels 'buried' their dead in high meadows where the trees were stubby and the buzzards roosted. Jess waited at the end of the road, as Gabriel led Anna and Samandiriel through whatever rites angels had – songs, prayers, not that she could know. Jess wished she had an automated remote recorder; even though she could hear some of the low tones as they traveled, some of them she could only feel, deep in the infrasonic.

Jess wondered what and to whom Gabriel was singing, and asked Kali.

"He's singing to other mountains, other territories," she said in Enochian. She was still recovering, too hurt to fly, but she'd wanted to see Lucifer buried and settled for watching from the front seat. Jess wasn't sure if it was spite that drove Kali out of her convalescent bed, or a will to see Lucifer finished and forgotten. Dr. Visyak had said she would probably recover in a month and be able to produce fertile eggs again, but Jess still worried.

"Is he telling them that Lucifer is dead?"

"Star-in-the-east-horizon-at-dawning was a egg-smashing pissdrinker." She leaned back against the Scout's seat. "I'm glad you killed him."

Jess was, too, and still felt guilty about it. He'd been three people's husband and lots of kids' father, along with a mass siblicide and a violent bully. His family back in the silent area would collapse without him. Maybe one of his children would leverage their lovers into the role of parents and make things work, or an outside square might claim the territory and drive all of Lucifer's kin out. They wouldn't know until they got the data from one of the autonomous listening stations in the area.

She wondered how Gabriel felt, but all he'd said about the brother he hadn't seen in decades, the brother who had annihilated most of Gabriel's siblings to establish himself as a parent back in the 1950s, was that he, Gabriel, needed to be there when they laid him out. Jess wondered if Gabriel forgave her, or even felt he needed to. It was hard to tell, quiet as he was being.

"Well. That's done," Gabriel said as he climbed into the back seat after the rest of the angels flew off. Even Anna and Samandiriel were leaving, though they kept landing and looking back, watching as the buzzards converged and began squabbling.

"How are you doing?" Jess turned to watch Gabriel settle himself. He wasn't flying, not as bruised as his wings were, both from the fight and the subsequent plucking that had stopped him from bleeding to death. His streamers might grow back immediately, or they might take to his next molt.

Gabriel looked up from where he'd pressed his forehead against Kali's over the bench seat and sighed. "It's over, all of it. I'm … relieved. Oh, and this is for you." Gabriel dug in his jacket and dropped a cassette recorder over the seat.

"What... Gabriel, did you have this on you the whole time?"

"Well…I think I left it in my pocket, and I might’ve forgotten it was on..."

"Husband," Kali said reprovingly.

Gabriel gave Kali a little head shake, and turned to Jess. "You probably want to make sure there's nothing important on there before you get rid of it. Just to be sure."

Jess stared at the device in her hand. Alan Lomax had heard them once, back in the thirties, but he hadn't been able to record them – the equipment of the day wasn't up to picking up songs from the distance a human could approach angels at the time. He'd transcribed what he'd been able to, of course, but even he had acknowledge that what he'd gotten down was woefully incomplete. But Gabriel had recorded the funeral for her, songs that no researcher had ever been allowed to tape.

It felt like forgiveness, or maybe just love.

She smiled and tucked it into her jacket pocket. "I'll be sure to do that."

"Can you close the wards? I don't think I have the energy, or the goodwill." Gabriel sagged back against the seat's back, and folded down on himself.

"Yeah, I will."

Jess got out, and went up to the metal farm gate. She glanced up into the meadow, to the roiling mass of carrion birds, and shuddered. She had a card with the Aramaic words to seal the funeral ground in her pocket, got it out, and carefully read them off as she scattered the packet of nut meal and cattail pollen across the driveway. There was a brief shimmer in the air, nothing more, but the sun seemed brighter. Hopefully that meant the wards were activated – protection against the sort of people who would try to steal body parts from an angelic funeral meadow, enough that most people would be repelled and anyone powerful enough to get through should be seriously hampered.

Back at the Scout, Jess found Gabriel asleep and Kali staring out the window.

"It's been a long day. Ready to go home?"

"Yes, but home, not the Center."

"You sure?" At Kali's raised eyebrow, Jess mumbled, "I thought you might like to have other angels around."

"I want my wife and both my husbands, and I'm sure Gabriel feels the same. We’re square, and we shore each other up in all storms. And Lal is with Sam."

"Ah. Puppy pile on my bed?"

"If you wouldn't mind."

"No problem."

Jess started the Scout, and turned them down the mountain, towards home.

Gabriel woke when the truck stopped, and he blinked in disorientation for a moment, because the earthsong was not the same as it had been when he fell asleep. Of course, he'd fallen asleep in a vehicle, so that was no surprise; well, at least once he was awake, it only took a moment to realize that Jess had kept driving even though he fell asleep. The world didn't stop because Gabriel closed his eyes, obviously.

"Hey, Gabriel," Jess said as she looked over the back seat. Kali had already gotten out and was striding up to the door. "How’re you doing?"

Gabriel thought for a moment. Star-in-the-east-horizon-at-dawn was dead, and returning to the sky by way of buzzards even as they sat here in Jess' Scout. The nightmare of his childhood, his beloved older blue-brother who had killed their parents and their siblings and tried to kill Gabriel twice, was gone, like a dark dream dissolved in sunlight.

"I'm good, Jess. I'm good."

"C'mon, let's get you inside."

Gabriel let Jess put her arm around his waist, and shepherded him inside. Kali was holding Lal, and Sam hugged him carefully around the shoulders, avoided bumping bruised wings and his own broken arm.

"Bed?" Sam asked.

"Hells, yes."

They used Jess' bedroom, as it had the largest bed. Sam and Jess and Kali and Lal – his family in a pile around him, in their nest, their territory and home.

Gabriel put his head against Jess' shoulder, let Sam wrap engulf him in a handclasp, and tangled his toes with Kali's. He closed his eyes, safe in his square. Home.

or at AO3

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