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Somewhere to Begin

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It ends with a bargain, grace weaving through the shreds of his soul.

Adam tips his head back and exhales.

“Close your eyes and ears to everything but me,” Michael breathes into him.

And then they’re flying.

-*-

It starts with a jailbreak.

-*-

Adam wakes up to a dark, unfamiliar room and blinks through the fading headache behind his eyes.

By the light of street lamps or the moon between the curtains, he can see a tall chest of drawers at the foot of the bed. There’s a door beside it and another at his side of the bed, furthest from the windows. A half-open laptop sits on the long desk under the window, long-sleeved shirts thrown over the chair’s back. A single, large canvas of something glittering and frozen mid-swirl hangs in a frame above the bureau.

Adam doesn’t recognize any of it.

He knocks over a plastic bottle of water reaching for the lamp he can see on his nightstand; something small clatters to the floor and, when he’s fumbling for the lamp’s switch, the room bursts into light from the other side of the bed.

Adam almost has a heart attack, twisting in the sheets.

There’s a pale, lean-muscled guy propped up on his elbows, squinting at Adam with a tired frown, and how the hell had Adam seen the glitter in the canvas, but missed the fact that there was a stranger in his bed?

“Are you all right?” the man asks, quietly, head tilting to the side.

Adam stares from the guy’s naked chest to his unfamiliar face of dark hair, light brown eyes, and there’s a startling moment of vertigo when he realises that, in addition to the lack of recognition, he has no idea how he got here, or where here is.

He swallows when the stranger’s hand slides across the bed and he pulls his own hand away.

“Who the hell are you?” Adam blurts, swallowing to work some moisture down his throat.

The guy shakes his head like he doesn’t understand the simple question.

“Adam?”

He’s handsome, older, but there’s something about him that makes Adam’s palms sweat, his throat tightens, and it’s not in a good way. Adam watches the confusion, then sharp suspicion flicker across the man’s face before he sits up and leans across the bed even as Adam leans away.

“What the --?” Adam smacks away the hand reaching for his face, but when his wrist knocks the guy’s palm, something else curls around his shoulders, something unseen that brushes like a careful trail of knuckles through his clothes, skin and bones. Its resonant heat reaches right through for his heart, his soul, and Adam seizes.

The recognition is instant, this sensation of scalding water over an open wound.

It’s Michael.

The bedside lamp crashes to the wooden floor when Adam throws himself back, falling out of bed, sheets dragged with him. Something crushes under him, leaving glass in his back and his hands as he kicks, feet knocking the bed-frame in his scramble to get away, but his knees won’t hold him and he keeps falling as he stumbles towards the closest door.

He’s shaking, skin crawling, and there’s a silent scream stuck in his throat with the sensory memory of past things malevolent and undefined, though close enough to remember beneath the ripping lake of his mind, its surface slick and permeable, if Adam only dipped his hand in to see—

Adam jumps at the hands on his knee and shoulder. Michael is crouching beside him, frowning in concern.

“Adam, stop – wait.”

Michael’s head turns with the force of Adam smashing the bedside lamp across his face. It shatters in his hands, across Michael’s cheek, and the angel blinks, stunned. A moment later the cuts in his skin begin to weep, but Adam’s already clambering for his next weapon.

He throws the bottle of water as he yanks free; there’s a small fan unplugged on the ground beside the night stand that Adam improvises as a club. Michael’s head snaps to the side, still stunned from the blow of the lamp, but the angel catches his wrist at the second blow and Adam can see Michael is collecting himself, eyes narrowed dangerously when Adam wrenches the entire top drawer out of the night stand, swings it down over Michael’s head with his free hand spilling pens, post-its and other junk before the heavy wood connects and splinters.

There’s a fleeting spark of hope in Adam’s chest that he might actually survive this when Michael falls against the bed’s side with a soft grunt, but he’s already pushing the drawer off and why the fuck won’t this guy go down?

Adam sees the old scissors before they skitter to a stop by his knee, dull metal glimmering in the dim light. His hands are bloody with glass fragments and the scissors slide in his palm.

Michael’s eyes widen when Adam lunges, but the angel is faster and the scissors spear his hand instead of his heart. Adam recoils at the shuddering impact up his arm of metal through sinew and bone. An awful, cornered sound tears from his throat through the disgust and fear, and he rips the scissors out to strike again. But Michael’s already there, of course he’s already there, with his powerful fingers around Adam’s wrist, swiping blood across Adam’s arms when he catches him and tugs him in.

Adam fights, but the only thing he can do is make himself as small as possible when Michael’s arms close around him, vices of muscle and grace like bands upon bands of superheated metal melting against his skin, vaporizing through his flesh.

I don’t – no, no, please stop, please let me go –

He’s crumbling, teeth gritted around a high keen of agony he doesn’t realize he’s making because his head is ringing and he’s going to be sick. He wants to throw up until he can’t feel, he wants the world to stop in time, he wants desperately to not exist because he can’t catch his breath and he can’t go through this again.

Words muffle against his temple as Michael pulls Adam close in his lap. The angel’s voice is low and urgent, absent of the bass and hiss that Adam expects, and it sounds almost like what he remembers of concern. A hand pushes through his hair, tugging away quickly when Adam jerks with a pained whimper at the fingers that feel like blades over his scalp and Adam’s ready to keel when it all suddenly stops.

It’s like somebody’s flicked a switch, the fire’s fallen back, but Adam’s still in Michael’s lap, swaying, disoriented, and oversensitive as a thick blanket is pulled tight around his shoulders. Adam shudders at the hand stroking down his back through the barrier.

“Adam… what’s happened to you?”

There was no mistaking Michael’s brand, but the thing within the human holding Adam sounded broken and horrified. Adam blinks at the angel through the sweat in his eyes, nausea rolling fresh at Michael’s sick imitation of distress because the only thing worse than outright torture was the play of being kind, of resettling into some sort of peace, before it started all over again.

“Calm down, I’m here,” Michael says, as if that’s supposed to make any sense to his victim. He holds on when Adam pushes against his chest with a weak note of desperation.

Let me go, let me go, let me go—

Michael stills. Adam feels his hold squeeze tighter for a moment, possessive, cloying, then two fingers press to his forehead.

“Please. Please, just breathe. I’m not going anywhere,” Michael says.

Adam has a moment to choke on his grief before the black takes him.

-*-

There are only three of them in the cage now.

Adam can hear them like bubbles of sound gurgling through water. At first he thinks he’s the one above the surface and he strains his ears.

The gurgle erupts in a geyser; Adam claps both hands over his ears with a cry, and the cage inverses on its axis.

Adam slams to his knees against a new ground that’s slippery and squelches beneath his boots. He gags, pushing to his hands and knees, and his fingers come away covered in the thick muck. The smell makes his stomach roll and he vomits blood and water because he hasn’t eaten, hasn’t drunk in what feels like years.

The geyser is still gushing in his ears, but he looks up when it threads, thinning out, and the eerie quiet makes every instinct clamber to attention because the angels are still there somewhere out of sight, a distant vibration of sound beneath his skin.

The quiet splits in a horrifying shriek, Adam staggers, but that’s not an angel.

And it’s not alone.

He squints in the red-tinted dark, wet hands fisting and unfisting at his sides. He hears the wet, squelching shuffle before he sees them. The awkward stop and start way that they drag their feet, as though with a limp, a broken hip, or a shattered body.

They gape at him when they’re finally close enough for Adam to see. They’re people, or they’re the wretched, reanimated shades of things that used to be, like they walked through a slaughterhouse and forgot to break their stride. They’re a disheartened patchwork of bleeding eyes, hanging jaws (some missing) and shredded bodies pockmarked with disease and long, brutal tears exposing muscle and bones to gleam in the low light.

Adam shudders when they moan and stagger close, a helpless sob strangling his throat.

He has to run. He has to run. He has to run.

He can’t move. One of them lifts a hand, reaching for him. And then as one, they swarm.

Somewhere above, where Adam’s screams have long faded before they reach this space, two archangels war on.

-*-

The second time Adam wakes up, he's back in the bed.

The overhead lights are dimmed, the sheets arranged neatly and untucked up to his shoulders. Voices murmur in the hall beyond the open door, almost familiar; Adam's heard them before, but he can’t name them.

He glances around the room and Dean smiles at him from the chair at the desk.

"Hey, kid," Dean says, warm and quiet.

"... Dean?"

Adam blinks and looks Dean over in his flannel sleeves, denim jeans and working boots. He looks at his own bandaged hands, warm and tingling on the duvet. The laptop is open to what looks like a page of search results in the internet browser; Dean shuts the lid and rolls the chair to the bed's side.

"Are you real?" Adam stares at him.

Instead of answering his question, Dean nods at his bandaged hands, smile thinning to something wry and sympathetic.

"Domestic troubles?"

Dean looks good, strong and limber, but there are more lines around his eyes and mouth. His smooth skin shows the early signs of weathering too many days standing in the sun, though Adam really only met the guy once, so his impression wasn't the most reliable benchmark. He still looks and feels older than Adam expects.

"Is he gone?" Adam asks, hushed.

Dean frowns, searching his face.

"Mike?"

Adam stares at his brother's perfectly straight expression. Mike?

"Dean, Michael's jumped the cage. Man, I woke up in this fucking bed and he was right there. We need to get out of here, now. Where are we? Is Sam here?"

Dean's hand settles over Adam’s forehead, the coolness of his skin sapping some of the residual panic.

"You want to tell me how you did that?" Dean gestures at Adam’s hands, thin white bandages wrapped tight.

"I was trying to fight off an archangel -- dude! Did you hear what I just said?"

"Your fever broke a few hours ago, but I think it's still throwing you for a loop. Adam, trust me, okay? You’ve got to rest right now."

Adam stares at his brother, weak horror stirring in his chest.

"Dean, are you listening to me? Michael was here! He’s probably coming back and he can’t get his hands on you, we have to get out--"

Dean pushes him gently back down to the pillow.

"And your big brother's telling you everything's going to be okay. I’ve taken care of it. Nothing's going to hurt you while I'm here, okay? I'm not going anywhere."

A chill goes through Adam; that’s what he had said.

"Dean--"

"Adam," Dean says, louder and firm. It's the voice of authority, practiced and honed to settle the final word. Dean, unlike Adam, has had a sibling to practice on his entire life. "We're safe now. You're safe, you hear me?”

Dean’s determined green eyes look into him, unwavering, until Adam releases a long breath and lets his head flop back against the pillow, despite his better judgment. There’s a stone sinking in his chest and he knows that he’s going to regret this.

“I’m going to stay right here until you fall asleep,” Dean assures him, gently squeezing his shoulder.

Dean hands him the fresh glass of water from the nightstand after he swallows, dryly. He thanks his brother quietly when Dean takes the glass back.

“Is Sam here?”

“The family’s looking out for each other and I’ll answer all your questions later, but right now we’ve got to look after you.”

Adam strains to hear those voices in the hall. They’ve fallen silent.

“He got out before me, you know, is he… is he okay?”

“Sam’s great; he wants to see you after you’re rested up. So, shut your pie-hole and start counting sheep.”

Adam glances at the windows, glowing with what could be the late morning sun, but Dean’s watching him with an expectation like he won’t even blink until Adam’s drifted off.

Adam clears his throat, resettling his shoulders with a hiss when he tries to turn on his side. His skin screams like he’s been sunburned at the slightest pressure and the discomfort must show on his face because Dean motions to the empty glass of water.

“I put some painkillers in there; they should kick in soon.”

Adam glances uneasily between the open door and his brother. Dean follows his gaze, gets up and shuts the door without a word. Adam instantly feels better without the threat of bodiless voices plotting behind the walls and unseen eyes peering around at him.

It’s just him and Dean.

“You going to stare at me all day?” Adam mutters, when Dean’s resettled himself in the squeaky desk chair, and he smirks at Adam like he’s in on a larger secret.

Dean wheels to the desk and brings the laptop back with him, but Adam can’t see what he starts typing. Adam’s eyelids are growing heavy when he blinks, watching his brother smile at something he’s read before the keys tap-tap.

“Are you cybersexing in front of me?” Adam mutters, half-muffled in the pillow.

“Remote sexting, dude, get with it. Thanks for your laptop.” Dean winks at him and Adam groans, shutting his eyes against the sight even if he has no memory to claim ownership over the device.

“Too early?” Dean prompts.

“Too tired to bite you back, man,” Adam says, but he likes the sound of Dean’s chuckle. He’d like the chance to get used to it.

“Then get to sleep already.”

“I’m trying, fuck you.”

Adam’s almost smiling when he rolls on his side away from Dean, the warm safe feeling in his chest overriding the itchy, crawling burn in and beneath his skin. It gives him something else to focus on until he’s dropped off before he’s even realized the pain has settled to a dull ache.

-*-

When Adam’s breaths slow and even out, Dean shuts the laptop’s lid and sets it back on the desk. He feels the smirk fading as he bites his tongue and leans forward on his knees to consider what he’s just learned.

It’s bad.

He’s expecting the knock at the door when it comes, a soft rap of knuckles, and he rises to let them in rather than call out and wake Adam from his healing sleep.

Bobby bumps Dean with his underused cane when he shuffles in, expecting the younger man to move out of his way. Dean sighs; he should really know better by now.

“How is he?” Bobby murmurs, voice gravely, and Dean suspects the older hunter’s coming down with something.

Dean nods, resigned, and looks to the third man hovering in the doorway.

“It’s like you said.”

Michael’s hooded eyes are on Adam, asleep in the bed. His arms are tightly crossed, expression dark, and he turns back to the hall in silent invitation for them to follow.

Dean shuts the bedroom door behind them and sighs.

“From what he told me, I’m guessing the last thing he remembers is the cage – or getting pulled into it.”

Bobby’s stopped on the landing at the top of the stairs by Michael’s shoulder, eyes narrowed at the angel unhappily.

“—Thought you and he felt everything together,” Bobby accuses. “Wasn’t that one of your special features? And you didn’t know something was up?”

Michael’s looking down the staircase to the bright living room below and the last time Dean saw that frown of concentration, the archangel was arming for war.

“It doesn’t work both ways,” Dean supplies for Michael’s benefit, studying the angel’s stoic expression. “But it saved Adam’s life once.”

Bobby’s scowl deepens and he turns that souring look on Michael.

“Didn’t you feel the change?”

Michael finally comes out of his stasis; he shakes his head and absently slides his palm over the balcony’s cream banister.

“No. I woke and he was already different. Then he tried to kill me – he was ineffective, of course.” Michael’s mouth twists and Dean regards the bloody sleeve cuffs, the dried blood on his collar, though any evidence of the incident has since healed without a mark. Adam wasn’t so lucky, but from what Dean can tell, it was all accidentally self-inflicted.

He spares a moment to be glad Michael became the sort of person who calls family to an emergency before thinking of his own state.

That Michael became a person at all, in a way defined by more than flesh and blood.

It was still weird, considering ‘Michael’ and ‘family’ in the same sentence.

He’s afraid of you, Dean doesn’t say.

“You noticed anything unusual in the area? Even over the last couple of months?” Dean asks and Michael gives him one of his other looks that Dean appreciates so much, like Dean’s a moron for thinking Michael hadn’t already considered all the options.

He’s pretty sure Michael learned that unimpressed bitch face from Sam.

“Aside from the unseasonable frost? No. Those people from the vineyard will blame it on faeries if you speak to them,” Michael says, voice tight with annoyance, but Dean doesn’t take it personally. He knows the angel’s mind is on Adam.

“They don’t like you,” Dean reminds him.

“They don’t,” Michael agrees. His expression is growing distant and he’s frowning again.

Dean’s pretty sure they’re going to lose him to another inner monologue unless one of them steps in quick.

“So, what are we dealing with here? Did he knock his head too hard and just forget the last five years?” Bobby asks, but Michael’s already shaking his head.

“Adam is….” Michael looks back to the door, swallows thickly as though he still doesn’t trust if he has the right words, “That is not our Adam.”

Dean pales.

“What – you mean like a shifter? Skinwalker? Damn it, tell me it’s not another ghoul!” His stomach drops away and it might be a sign of his age that he has to reach for the banister to keep himself steady. “Please, please don’t tell me something got to him.”

Michael glares at him.

“That was not what I meant.”

Dean wants to punch him. He was getting too old for this shit. He doesn't know how many more shocks like that his heart could take and he was still on the better side of forty.

“It’s Adam,” Michael assures them, eyes narrowing at that door again, “But he is… I searched his mind while he was unconscious. He doesn’t remember us, he’s missing the last few years and he won’t remember them because those memories are not there. They haven’t been taken or repressed. That would leave a mark; they just never were.”

Dean stares, shakes his head like he’s shrugging off a trance, and he can tell from Bobby’s face that he’s just about fed up as well.

“What the hell does that mean?” Dean demands, cursing an apology when his voice rises and Bobby throws him a warning look.

This was probably a conversation they should have taken downstairs.

“He’s missing scars. His soul is raw, his reaction to my grace was… violent. He’s younger.” Michael’s voice halts with regret, hand tightening around the banister.

Dean stares at Michael’s profile, and then it strikes him.

“It’s – wait, are you saying –“

“… He’s from another time, ain’t he?” Bobby growls, a white-knuckled grip on his cane.

Michael’s expression hardens, cold.

“Once I escaped the cage, I always wondered how he restored himself so quickly after—” Michael stops and shakes his head, thinking better than to remind Dean of what he and Lucifer had done to his brothers to pass time in the cage – especially when Dean was just starting to forgive him for it. “Now I understand. He was returned to the wrong time.”

“So, who’s the guy we found all those years back?” Dean asks, because the pieces still don’t fit. “… Was that our Adam?”

Dean stretches his memory back and remembers how Adam had handled himself, standing tall, more confident and at ease than he was before he’d even fallen into the cage: the way he’d smile at Dean sometimes, warm and encouraging, as if he knew a secret for their survival; the way he’d sit with Sam, shoulder-to-shoulder, and assure him that it was all going to be okay when he thought Dean couldn’t hear them (and Dean had wanted to hit him upside the head for talking about things he didn’t know); the way Adam hadn’t run from Michael when the angel eventually found them, and then looked surprised when Michael punched a hand through his chest.

If it was true… suddenly it made sense. But then, why hadn’t Adam said anything? All these years and he hadn’t said a word.

Michael is shaking his head again, intently studying the floor boards.

“I don’t know. I can’t – I can’t feel….”

Dean doesn’t like the shifting expressions of confusion and upset in Michael’s face. He’s come to depend on Michael as his Adam-Positioning-Satellite for so long that realizing the connection’s been broken with those hushed words brings everything home.

Dean lets the banister bear his full weight and Bobby is scowling at the both of them.

“On the bright side, we must be about to do something right because he was fine in the past, wasn’t he? Better than new?” Bobby asks.

Dean and Michael exchange a long look. They’ve never talked about it. They haven’t passed enough years to look back and laugh, even if that was the sort of thing they did.

“Was he?” Michael asks, quietly.

Dean has to break that stare because he doesn’t like thinking about those times when he finally got his brothers back – both of them – and things got twice as hard for a really long time. He doesn’t like bringing those memories into their homes for fear of threatening this tentative peace they’ve all found.

If he was honest, he was still chasing his.

“More or less,” Dean says and heads down the stairs, boots treading quietly.

What Michael didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, and what didn’t hurt Michael wouldn’t spill over to the rest of them with passive aggressive gusto.

“Thank you, for calming him down,” Michael says when Dean’s almost at the foot of the stairs.

Dean nods, because Adam-out-of-time or not, it’s still his brother and Dean’s just glad it worked.

-*-

Adam runs.

He runs and stumbles through ankle-deep flesh and blood and bone and sometimes he gets far enough that he thinks he might outrun the slow-advancing horde of undead.

He might run far enough, but then tangle in a web of tendons or mottled ribcages left like a forgotten bear trap. Or he runs and stabs an upright, broken bone right through his foot.

He runs, heart thundering in his ears and he wishes it was louder to deafen their noise, but he always hears them before he sees them.

He runs, something trips him, and the things at his back catch his heels, drag him back. They incise him using slow, curious tears with blunt, bony fingers and never think to abort his screams by going for his throat or tongue first.

They catch him every time, made clumsy by terror…

Until the day he stops running.

He’s stopped looking for an exit that doesn’t exist. He’s stopped hoping and screaming and processing the pain. He’s stopped understanding anything but the ever-constant drum of terror in his ears, splitting agony between his eyes until he can no longer see in simple hues of red and black.

He doesn’t see any more at all, but he learns there are always bones at his feet.

He reaches down and snaps a femur from the skeleton’s socket, grip slippery with blood. His other hand sinks through rotting skin and fat, finds an empty skull and pulls it free with fingers hooked in the eyes.

They’re at his heels again, slushing through the wreck of broken bodies, but now Adam knows where the bones are, knows which length of sinew is within his reach to catch and garrotte and he wonders how he had never seen it before. They pulse at him like radioactive weapons in the dark.

Overhead, something brilliant crashes through the sky of this field of bodies before it’s lanced in the side, but Adam’s already too blind to see. His skin blisters, peels and bleeds from its residual heat. It crashes past him and keeps on falling. The ground shakes with a pained howl when the bright, foreign light plummets and pierces right through.

He doesn’t feel the breaks in his skin or the ground’s tremors. He doesn’t hear the cage’s scream or the angel that shouts his name before the field reforms behind him to swallow the sound.

He’s still standing and there are still things reaching for him with broken hands.

He raises the sharp-ended bone and this time he attacks first.

-*-

Castiel arrives later that afternoon, appearing at Dean’s arm while the man is hunched at the dining table and searching for clues of Adam’s displacement.

So far he’s come up empty, but there are a lot of file notes to sort through and it’s not like Dean had much of a system. He wasn’t their Dad: there was no journal, only the memories he’d put on paper in the time since he came downstairs. A lot of shit went down and they didn’t all have time for group therapy or reflection when everyone was running and ducking for cover.

He lolls back in his chair with a genuine sense of relief when the air shifts and Castiel is there, trench coat brushing his elbow, curious judgment narrowed at Dean’s notes.

“I didn’t know you kept journals,” Castiel says by way of greeting and Dean smiles up at him.

“I don’t.”

“Oh.” Castiel nods, the disarray over the dining table explained, and he looks around the room, to the open arches that lead toward the foyer and the other way towards the lounge.

“How’s life managing the Heavenly Host?” Dean asks.

Castiel blinks at him with a narrowed look suggesting he’d like to push Dean out of his chair.

“Difficult.”

… Okay, then.

Bobby is catching his grandpa nap on the thick, weathered armchair by the east-facing windows. The hunter’s slouched comfortably, snoring softly into his own shoulder, and before they all leave, Dean’s going to take a picture for Adam’s fridge.

Dean points towards the kitchen.

“Mike’s sulking in the backyard; don’t get sucked down with him.”

Castiel blinks, glancing over Dean’s person, giving no indication that commiseration was in his plans for the afternoon.

“Have we determined your brother’s condition?”

Dean shrugs it off with a shoulder.

“Wrong brother, wrong time.” Dean regrets it almost as soon as he’s said it because he feels like he’s degrading their dilemma, but if Michael had told them as much to start with, maybe, they could have taken action sooner.

Dean doesn’t have enough excuses to call Castiel these days.

His youngest brother is upstairs in that room, drugged into sedation, because they were too worried he’d hurt himself or somebody else if he woke up still raw from his trauma.

“Dean, can you be more specific?” Castiel frowns suspiciously as though he’s trying to gauge if Dean was misleading him.

Dean misses that about him.

He explains to Castiel what they’ve discovered and watches the angel shift from suspicion to curiosity, then clinical assessment and finally understanding of why Michael has called for him.

“Adam’s soul has been ravaged by Hell, Michael will require me to heal him,” Castiel says, nodding to himself, and turns on his heel, headed for the stairs.

Dean startles at Castiel’s abrupt leave.

“Uh – Cas!”

Castiel stops in the wooden archway, wearing a look like he’s clearly expecting Dean to have a good reason for interrupting his business.

Dean thinks quickly and points to the kitchen again. Its windows face onto the backyard, which was more of a fruit grove backing onto a paddock.

“Don’t you think you should check in with Mike first? A little angel pow-wow?”

Castiel’s eyes narrow at Dean, considering it. He nods once and turns for the kitchen instead, before Dean interrupts him again.

“I want to be there.”

Castiel looks back, expression slightly offended.

“We’ll take care of him, Dean.”

Dean knows that, but Adam won’t, and he made the kid a promise.

“Look, just, don’t go ahead without me. Okay?”

He sees Castiel’s jaw tighten and the guy actually shrugs, but it’s minute; he barely lifts his shoulders. Dean catches it because he’s spent the last five years learning Castiel’s tells.

“If you wish,” Castiel says and disappears before Dean can interrupt him from taking another step.

Damn it.

He forgets about snapping the picture of Bobby ageing comfortably in that armchair Adam had salvaged from the vineyard owners.

Dean stares at the spot where Castiel had stood. He makes the decision to gather his things and heads upstairs to the room Adam usually shared with Michael.

It was going to be interesting to see how well Michael dealt with being relegated to the couch. Dean wonders if it had occurred to the archangel yet. If not, Dean’s disclaiming responsibility of breaking the news to him – Bobby could have that one. The thought cheers him a little as he climbs the stairs, papers messily clasped in his hands.

He’s relieved to find Adam still asleep, snoring softly on his back with the sheets pooled to his waist. Depositing his papers on the desk, Dean tucks the sheets back to his brother’s shoulders, rolls the chair out to sit, and waits.

These are angels they’re talking about; he could be waiting a while.

He flips his phone open and smiles when he realises he’s received a text from Sam.

Tell me what’s happening, jerk.

Ah, Sam. So much manly panic in so few words.

Think everything’s going to be ok. Mike just woke up with a virgin, lol.

The response is almost instantaneous.

Michael cheated??? I’m calling you.

Dean scrambles to reply before his gigantor brother’s fingers can punch the right speed dial.

Can’t talk, Adam’s sleeping. No cheating, explain later.

WTF. Sam’s reply seems to groan at him. What’s going on over there? Should I come around?

Dean stares at the message and seriously considers it.

He wants Sam. He needs him there, but Dean doesn’t know how the rest of the day will go down and the last thing he wants is for Sam to walk into another mess just when he was finally building something. Even if it was a tentative something with people Dean was even less confident calling ‘people’.

He wants Sam to be happy, be more than a shoulder to prop him up. Not again.

Call you later. Don’t worry.

Dean shuts his phone with the sinking suspicion he’s just made a bad situation worse.

Adam stirs on the bed with a soft noise of discomfort and Dean frowns against the impulse to wake him.

It’s maybe ten minutes later that Castiel and Michael join him, door latch shaky like the rest of this old cottage, hinges whining. A memory passes behind Dean’s eyes of Adam throwing his coat over the back of the desk chair, door swinging wide against the bureau as he ran Dean through the endless list of things he’d planned to mend. Adam rolled his eyes for Dean’s benefit, he was sure, because Adam loved this house.

Castiel’s face is curious and careful when he sets eyes on Adam and whatever he sees makes him flinch. Dean straightens nervously in his chair. Michael doesn’t respond to the dark look Castiel gives him because he’s already moving towards the bed.

“Has he woken again?” Michael asks, sinking to the foot of the bed, and Dean shakes his head. Michael looks torn between disappointed and grateful; he smiles ruefully. “There was a time when I wouldn’t have to ask you that.”

“Different time, different Adam,” Dean amends, having learned his lesson with Castiel downstairs. “So, what’s the plan?”

Castiel hovers by the desk, scanning the papers Dean’s been studying all afternoon.

“Adam’s soul is attempting to heal itself. Without intervention, the process will be imperfect. Your brother’s seen true horror, Dean, but he’s survived at a terrible cost. His soul is mangled. If he wakes again, you should be ready for anything.”

“He already woke up once – twice. That’s a good sign, right?” Dean asks.

“If those wounds reopen one day, it could be catastrophic. For him and those around him. You remember what happened to Sam.”

Michael’s expression is pale and stony, and if they were trying to discourage Dean, it was seriously working. He was also confused.

“So, what does that mean?” Dean shakes his head, eyes narrowed. “You’re not going to help him?”

Because that’s why Michael brought him here. Michael wouldn’t have bothered if there wasn’t hope – except that’s exactly the sort of thing Dean would expect from any of them.

Which Goddamn family did they think this was, anyway?

Castiel draws something in the air, watching Adam sleep.

“I’ll need to scar him.”

Dean chokes.

“What?”

“His soul needs to scar and heal over those hundreds of years he spent in Hell, or you may not like what wakes up when Adam next opens his eyes.”

Okay, that was… creepy and disturbing, but there was still something Dean didn’t understand.

“Why couldn’t you do it? You’ve got the most juice in the whole factory,” Dean asks Michael.

Michael glances up, meeting Dean’s accusing glare. There are shadows under Michael’s eyes and he looks away quickly. Well, that was the sort of reaction Dean had hoped to inspire, even if it was five years late.

“Lucifer and I—” Michael searches, slowly, “—Adam’s soul had learned not to heal. But it hasn’t learned Castiel, so Adam will respond to his grace,” Michael explains.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Michael tells him with absolute certainty, and Dean supposes that’s fair because these angels were in the business of souls and eternity, while Dean was more exclusively in the industry of salting and charring things off the mortal coil.

“Okay.” Dean nods. “Well. Can I do anything?”

“Pray,” Michael says.

Dean blinks, shifting uncomfortably in his seat with a sceptical eyebrow. Michael seemed completely serious.

Castiel moves to the bed and hesitates, warring with something. He turns back to Dean reluctantly.

“Dean, this will not be pleasant or easy. You don’t need to be here.”

Michael’s just told him there’s little to nothing that Dean can do to help. Dean shrugs at the stupid implication.

“I’m staying.”

Castiel’s jaw clenches, his shoulders still tense as he sighs.

Dean moves to the other side of the bed so Michael can hold his vigil at the foot on the corner, because if Castiel couldn’t get a human to budge, there was no way he was evicting Heaven’s sword. Castiel seems annoyed with the both of them, but Michael’s not looking at Dean; he just gestures vaguely to Castiel that he has permission to make Dean’s brother better.

Dean pulls the sheet back from Adam’s neck, skin shining with a light sheen of sweat. Dean’s not sure what Castiel needs, but he feels like he should have a damp washcloth or something ready; a thermometer maybe or a heart pressure band.

He swallows when Castiel leans over Adam and rolls back his sleeve. That motion makes Dean’s tongue thick and heavy, sticking to the roof of his mouth as an almost-forgotten anxiety stirs in his stomach.

Castiel glances up at Dean, expression hard.

“You may need to hold him down,” Castiel says and Dean’s glad he stayed after all.

He reaches for Adam’s shoulder and Castiel lays a palm flat over his sternum. The room seems to take a collective breath. Dean feels it when Adam’s body stiffens, Castiel’s fingers sinking through his chest with a hiss that reminds Dean of burning plastic.

Adam groans tightly and Dean checks his face, but he’s still asleep.

When Castiel sinks in up to his elbow, Adam screams, body bowing into the bed in a desperate, involuntary attempt to retreat from the seeking hand. The noise he’s making is torn, agonized and breathless. Somehow, Adam’s still unconscious and Dean wonders if Castiel is keeping him that way.

Dean’s ears ring, but he bites down the shudder and the sting behind his eyes with a scowl, looks away from the light of Adam’s wretched soul burning like an obscured sun through his chest, and holds him down.

There’s a sudden storm of boots on the stairs and Bobby rushes into the room, eyes wide and horrified like he’s expecting to see a murder in progress. He almost bowls Michael over at the foot of the bed, but Michael catches his arm to steady him.

Dean feels the guilt low in his stomach for not warning Bobby beforehand. If he was considering his own heart, he could only imagine the shock Bobby must have had.

The horror doesn’t fade from Bobby’s face as he looks from Castiel’s determined concentration, elbow deep in Adam’s chest, to Dean holding him down by his shoulders.

Dean’s hoping the old man leaves, for his own sake, but then Bobby takes one look at Michael and he must see something that draws him to the same conclusion because he grabs the angel by the back of his neck and yanks him along like Michael was any of his stupid idjits.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Bobby says and Dean’s surprised that Michael lets the hunter push him from the room, shoulders slumped. Bobby gives Dean the grim, serious order with a mere look before he shuts the door behind them.

Get it done.

Dean grinds his jaw and holds on when Adam abruptly wrenches under his hands.

“How are you doing, Cas?” Dean asks, through gritted teeth, and hopes it won’t be much longer.

Castiel doesn’t answer. His free hand is braced over Adam’s neck like a precaution. All Castiel would have to do is squeeze and he could crush Adam’s windpipe, strangle the last of his life from him. His eyes are shut like he’s listening carefully for a note or that one bell in a larger symphony and he cocks his head, frowning slightly.

Adam is still screaming. He’s going to scream his throat bloody.

Dean wishes he could shut his ears. Instead, he holds Adam down and prays that it’s over soon.

-*-

It turns out that victory is short-lived in Hell.

Adam wields the monsters’ flesh and bones, rips their limbs even as they lunge at him and though the flesh tears and bones break, there’s an endless supply to take as his new pike and club.

They reform, gurgling up from the writhing mass of their battlefield, but without breath, without fear, or hope, Adam can now fight forever.

It doesn’t take forever for the angels to crash through the veil into his corner of the cage once more.

Lucifer and Michael are tangled in their fall. They twist, strike, and re-surge, incinerating everything ahead and around their path in a moment. The monsters halt with a shock, flash-burned, before they crumble and rush away on the incoming wind of the angels’ flight.

Adam is beyond understanding now, but he turns his cheek to their glory and burns through skin, flesh, and discovers his soul still knows how to keen in this refreshing agony. It should be over in an instant. It isn’t.

His throat and chest have charred away when a wisp of grace plunges for him and Adam goes, dragged after Michael and Lucifer as they battle on.

They fight, Adam’s vessel disintegrates, and they all fall together.

-*-

One thing Bobby had to give the old cottage: its thick walls proved to be good sound-proofing.

After dragging the archangel downstairs and dumping him at the dining table, Bobby almost couldn’t hear Adam screaming like he was being eaten alive.

Almost.

Bobby tried persuading the angel to leave the house, take himself anywhere he wouldn’t have to listen to what was going on upstairs. After the second time Bobby suggested it, Michael had asked if Bobby would go with him, but someone had to be here for Dean when it was all over. Adam would probably sleep on, but Dean….

Michael stayed with Bobby in the end.

It’s been two hours.

Michael is slumped over the table with his hands curled in his hair. His head hangs, shoulders tense, and Bobby hopes the angel will take the beer he slides across the table.

There’s a pause before Michael reaches for it. He rolls the bottle between his palms on the table, back and forth, but doesn’t drink.

Bobby hovers by the table and considers his own beer, clearing his throat loudly.

“Is there someone I should call?” Bobby asks, gruffly.

He’s not surprised when Michael shakes his head, freezing when another scream rips through the air. Michael pushes the bottle away and he has the face of someone who looks like they’re about to be sick.

Bobby considers leaving him to check the wards on the property again, just to get away from the noise before it completely shatters his nerves, but then he hears the door upstairs whine and shut. Dean’s heavy footfalls stomp down the stairs and his face is ashen when he enters the kitchen.

Bobby and Michael both straighten, anticipating his news, but Dean makes a beeline for the fridge.

“Well?” Bobby asks, wary at the speed Dean gulps down his beer, like he’s angry at his thirst and he’s looking to drown.

Quietly, just to himself, Bobby sort of wishes Sam was there with them. Sam’s been texting him through the last few hours, but Bobby’s kept his answers short. He and Dean have an unspoken agreement that Sam gets shielded, especially if there’s nothing he can do, but Bobby misses the man like his own son. He misses just having his mountainous hulk around like a tangible saint of compassion and the good intentions they’d all fought for.

Dean’s breathing hard when he reaches for his second bottle and throws the cap in the sink, sagging against the counter. There’s colour returning to his face; Bobby can tell he’s feeling the alcohol take effect because the lines around his eyes are smoothing out, his scowl lifting to something less severe. By the time Dean rests the bottle against his hip, two thirds empty, his expression has almost completely closed.

“He’s alive,” Dean says. “I’m starving.”

Bobby looks from Dean, to the stone-faced angel, and back again before making a quick decision.

“I’ll – run to the store. Get something for dinner,” he says, even though there’s probably a full pantry of canned goods he and Dean could gorge themselves on ‘til the end of days.

“You should leave,” Dean says, abruptly, and Bobby thinks he’s agreeing with him, except he’s pretty sure he hasn’t done anything to deserve that voice.

Dean’s glaring death at Michael when Bobby turns around.

Yeah. It’s definitely a pizza night.

Neither Dean nor Michael glances his way when he slips from the kitchen. He closes the front door behind him with a huge sigh of relief, breathing the cool, country night air deep.

The air in the house was closed, thick and stifled. Too many old memories resurging together and if Bobby was lucky the house would still be standing when he got back.

-*-

“I’m staying,” Michael says.

His voice is matter-of-fact, but rough. Dean recognises an opening when he hears it.

“How much of it was you?” Dean clenches the bottle, slippery with condensation.

Michael shakes his head with a look of dazed confusion.

“What?”

“I’m deaf in one ear because I had to hold my brother down for hours so Cas could stitch him together,” Dean growls.

“Scar,” Michael supplies, quietly.

Dean slams the bottle down on the counter.

“I thought I was done with the PTSD of you and Lucifer.” Dean points to the upstairs bedroom. “Did you hear him?”

Michael looks at his hands on the table; there’s a thread of something drawn between his fingers, but Dean’s not done.

“What the hell did you do?”

“… I didn’t intervene,” Michael says.

Dean waits for him to go on, trembling with rage.

Michael shakes his head and pulls his hands from the table, shoulders drawing in.

“Lucifer and I… fought. He tortured us and he conjured things in the cage to assist him. I tortured him. I was vulnerable if I tried to aid Sam and Adam, even to hide them. So, I didn’t... until it was too late.”

Michael winces at the memory.

“One day Lucifer turned on our vessels. I wasn’t kind to Sam, either, I’m sorry. But Adam was mine. I retaliated against Sam because he pulled me down with him… but Adam….” Michael looks out the kitchen window to the backyard, which had grown dark without Dean’s notice. “I’m sorry, Dean. I stole Adam back in the end, but Lucifer had hidden them away for so long.”

Dean kicks back the chair opposite from Michael. His bottle clunks to the table and there’s a tense, heavy pause when Dean considers breaking it over Michael’s head.

He drops into the chair instead, huffing frustration, and drains his beer.

“—What the hell am I supposed to do with that?”

Michael pushes his own bottle across the table and Dean snatches it right out of his hand, taking a long, spiteful swig. He doesn’t feel better.

“I’m staying,” Michael says again, but all Dean hears is I’m sorry.

“You better be ready to haul ass over high water ‘cause this is on you,” Dean says.

Michael leans his elbows on the table and it’s the heavy, swallowing silence before Michael’s nod that assures Dean the angel gets how serious this is. That will make Dean’s job a hell of a lot easier.

“And you’re sleeping on the couch.”

Michael blinks at him, confused.

“What? Oh.”

Dean sees Michael process it before he seems to understand and nods again.

“Yes, of course – I –” But then Michael just shakes his head and hands the floor back to Dean. “Is there anything else?”

Dean considers it, drums his fingers on his beer and –

There’s a shift in the air and then Dean’s eyes widen, before he shoots to his feet.

“Adam.”

Adam lolls against Castiel’s shoulder where they’ve appeared by the table. He looks Dean’s way with a groggy frown of irritation or confusion, but he’s awake and he’s standing, and that is… God, that’s such a relief.

“He was thirsty,” Castiel explains, propping Adam against the counter, and reaches into the fridge.

Michael’s also rising to his feet when Adam twists, folding over the sink and clumsily spinning the knob, drinking straight from the tap.

“Uh—” Dean sweeps to his brother’s side because Adam doesn’t look entirely steady, he may just be falling into the sink as he gulps the water down, eyes closed, and the water runs down his chin, into his shirt, rushing off his cheek and finally, Adam seems to have caught himself.

He pants, open-mouthed against the stream, forehead resting on his hand over the faucet. Dean can see that his blue eyes are dull and unfocused when they open. He reaches over Adam, slowly, and turns the faucet off.

Adam doesn’t react to Dean’s hand over his. Castiel is at Adam’s back when Dean pulls him upright, corrects his sway with hands on his arms.

“Hey,” Dean says, searching Adam’s face carefully, the angel’s words ringing in his head and he realises he’s looking for traces of Hell. Whatever that meant. “How you doing?”

Adam looks stoned, there’s water dripping down his chin and his neck. His expression is unmoved when he meets Dean’s eye.

“Why you touching me, man?” Adam eventually asks, voice shredded. Dean’s stomach tightens at the thought of why. Adam makes a feeble gesture like he’s trying to pull out of Dean’s reach. “’Hell are you?”

“… Adam, do you know who I am?” Dean prompts.

“Free hugs?”

Adam’s knees buckle and all three other men jump, but Michael pulls back before his hand lands on Adam’s shoulder. The expression on Michael’s face is torn when Adam looks up at him, pushing weakly against Castiel and Dean’s efforts to straighten him.

“The hell are you looking at?” Adam growls. He shuts his eyes with a wince like someone’s just scraped their nails down a chalkboard or a headache’s stabbed its way home.

Castiel touches Michael’s shoulder.

“You should leave,” he says.

Michael’s eyes narrow at him, then at Dean when he pipes in with, “That’s what I said.”

“I want to sit down,” Adam mutters and Michael steps aside as Dean leads him to a chair, eases him down into it.

Adam folds his arms on the table and pillows his head on them with a tired groan.

“Michael, I don’t know if your presence might recall what we’ve worked to seal,” Castiel tells his brother, hushed. “He’s not thinking clearly. The scars need time to settle.”

Dean sidles back to them, huddled by the counter, once he’s sure Adam’s not going to tip out of his seat and fall asleep on the floor. Michael’s face is a deep frown of concern watching Adam’s back. Against all his railing anger, Dean remembers what this means for the angel and he glances at Castiel, relenting, just a little.

“Sorry, Mike, I know I told you the couch was yours, but you probably have to go further tonight,” Dean says.

Michael eventually looks at Dean, then Castiel.

“Where should I go?” He shrugs, like he’s never considered it before, as though there was nowhere else for him.

“You can go anywhere, try Egypt – or how about the holy land? They’ve probably missed you.” Dean throws a hand to the window though, by Michael’s narrowed look of irritation, he doesn’t think that’s what the angel was searching for.

Dean deflates with a sigh.

“But you really should—“

Michael’s eyes flash, irises brightening like reflected metal, and he’s gone with a gust of air against Dean’s face, a rope lashed gently at his throat.

“—Go,” Dean finishes, looking about the kitchen. “Huh. Didn’t even want his beer.”

Castiel’s eyes never did that when he flew off. What did it mean when Mike did that? More importantly, should Dean be worried?

Adam’s fallen asleep at the table and Castiel is glaring at Dean when he meets the angel’s eye again.

“What?” Dean asks, because Castiel had started it and he was right! “I thought we were on the same page here.”

“He could have come with me,” Castiel says.

“How? Did they change the rules at immigration?”

Castiel shakes his head like Dean’s trying his patience and Dean stiffens, backing up when Castiel leans into his space, blue eyes bright and intense.

“If one of your civilisations disappears tonight, you’ll regret Michael had not come with me.”

Dean almost falls into the space Castiel leaves behind when the angel disappears, air rushing to fill the gap with an imperceptible crackle that lingers on Dean’s skin and raises the hair on his arms. He rubs his wrists absently.

“Well, could you go after him?” Dean asks the empty space and shakes his head.

If they were lucky, that’s just what Castiel was doing. Goddamn angels; they were all divas. His palms were sweating and he wipes them down his pockets, grinds his jaw, and he spares a glance for his unmoving brother at the table.

He didn’t like arguing with Castiel. But it was better than not seeing him at all.

Adam grunts softly, shoulder twitching in his sleep and Dean sighs. Spotting a blanket over one of the armchairs in the living room, he drapes it over Adam’s shoulders and when Bobby enters the kitchen fifteen minutes later, Dean’s slouched in his own chair, chin on the mouth of his fifth beer.

“’Ey, Bobby, Adam’s awake,” Dean gestures to his dozing brother, beer sloshing in its bottle, “Angels are gone. ‘S that pizza?”

He smiles crookedly at Bobby’s wobbly image that’s shaking its head, something muttered under his breath. Dean sings on the inside at the heavenly smell that wafts from the box Bobby drops under his nose.

“Oh, you’re my favourite,” Dean groans and flips the box open, too drunk to notice or care about Bobby’s disgruntled air or the way the guy sighs and sinks to the table, removing his cap and wiping an arm across his forehead.

Dean’s handed over the reins for the night. His concerns have mercifully reduced to the smell of cheese, tomatoes, and three types of meat. He’s in Heaven after the day he’s had.

“Take it all went well,” Bobby says, wryly, and reaches for his own slice of pizza.

There’s way too much in his voice for Dean’s state of mind so he just slides another beer to his friend and toasts him with a clink that startles Adam bolt upright from his nap.

Adam blinks at them with a bleary frown, blanket falling down the back of his chair.

“Morning, Princess,” Bobby says, casually, though he’s probably anything but relaxed and it’s closer to eight o’clock at night.

Adam blinks again, nonplussed, and Dean wonders if maybe Adam was having problems seeing.

“Is that pizza?” Adam eventually asks and coughs when his voice catches, barely audible.

Bobby pushes the box closer to him and Adam clears his throat loudly, apparently thinking nothing more of it as he coughs discreetly behind a fist and takes his own slice.

It couldn’t be this easy.

The shoe will drop in the morning – if not somewhere around 2AM – and Dean just hopes his pizza stays down. He’s already enjoying dinner a bit less, just thinking about it.

-*-

Adam wakes the next morning under a blanket on the couch with rain pattering against the windows.

He’s slow to come around, stretching and feeling every muscle’s tired complaint as though he had run a marathon the day before. He feels heavy and relaxed, but when he turns on his side, his chest aches and he quickly flattens on his back.

What the hell had he gotten up to yesterday?

He frowns, fingers resting at the middle of his chest where it feels like he’s been punched and crumpled. Swallowing, he’s surprised at the raw, shredded pain that almost makes his eyes water with the simple motion. At that moment, he thinks he’d do anything for a glass of—

Water. He spots it on the small coffee table beside his head and winces as it washes down his throat, stinging all the way. There are pills beside the glass and he swallows those, too.

There’s a long crack in the ceiling’s paint above his head. Resettled, he stares at it, waiting for the throb in his throat and chest to back off. He studies the wood planks in the gap and absently wonders if that were the sort of imperfection that would start flaking if left by itself.

A fresh gust of wind drives the rain like a wave against the window. The minutes pass, quiet and drowsy, and Adam forgets the ache in his chest as his eyes grow heavy again.

He falls back into a dream of lying on a sea wall with his clothes dusted in chipped paint, oblivious of the old hunter snoring softly in the armchair across the room, of his brother still passed out at the dining table, or the archangel standing at the door.

Michael’s eyes pass over each of them and he pushes his hands deep in the pockets of his leather jacket. His head tilts to the side when he lets himself look to Adam.

The fringes of pain have almost sunk completely beneath the surface, retreated to the cocoon of his soul and the scars Castiel made to seal them in.

Michael reappears beside the couch. There’s a thin sheen of sweat on Adam’s forehead, his body fallen into another healing sleep. The knot in Michael’s chest loosens slightly when his fingers push Adam’s hair back from his eyes; it was getting long again. Adam was usually so impatient to cut his hair.

“Michael.”

Michael stiffens. He doesn’t like the feeling that he’s been caught where he shouldn’t be.

This was his home. This was….

Castiel waits, hovering a respectful distance by Bobby’s armchair. Michael watches Adam sleep, stirring through a dream where clouds are gathering over the sea and he resists the whim to reach in and push them back.

“I know,” Michael eventually murmurs, straightening, and forces down his disappointment, the urgent, desperate need threatening to choke him if he doesn’t get to pull Adam to himself, to feel Adam breathe, safe, warm, and steady against his skin.

He saw the same thing in Castiel during the Apocalypse: the irrational drive to protect and linger in the heat of Dean’s soul. It was there in Stull Cemetery when Michael first saw them, although there was already a curl of betrayal within the desire, too, dark and ashen flecked in the glory of Castiel's grace.

There’s a story there that nobody has yet to tell him.

Michael does know that angels were born to war, to praise, and adore. Without a welcome focus for that purpose, Michael knows it could choke them – he waged a war on the Earth because Dad was absent to correct his last standing orders and Michael’s come far enough to think that he was grasping for direction. He’d been lonely among his changed and estranged kin, and desperate to see God, to be righteous and certain in his purpose once again. Surely Dad had only left because he was disappointed in them? So, if Michael righted things, Dad’s shame would be absolved and he would return.

Except Dad never came home to Heaven.

Now Michael is anxious it’s going to happen again, but for Castiel it’s already set in. Michael can see it like coal in the throat of his vessel, dark smoke winding as thick as vines from the heart of his grace and he doesn’t think Castiel even realises.

But Castiel is not like Michael; he counts the dead. He will adore his friends, he will praise the redevelopment of their kin in Heaven, and he’ll be glad. He’ll believe it’s enough. He’ll ensure it is and he’ll be no less powerful.

Castiel is already more than he was, but he’ll still be less than he could have been.

Michael has mourned for that.

Castiel knows faith by the plight and triumphs of his family, but Michael thinks it’s been a while since he affirmed any of it for himself.

Castiel fought for the world and he got the promotion.

Michael fought to end the world and, at the end of their twisted road, was awarded the happy ending.

So, Michael pities his brother and doesn’t lash out at being called away from his new home. Castiel was supposed to be the one with the two bedroom cottage in the country and steadfast companion who dragged him to bed every night.

Whenever Michael thinks on it, he doesn’t understand why Castiel isn’t angry; in fact, he’s kind. On some days, Michael sees that Dean is angry enough for the both of them, his soul flashing with hurt (yearning) and frustration each time Castiel easily takes his leave. Adam’s brother was just too slow to understand.

Michael’s fingers hover by Adam’s temple. Nothing crackles or recoils beneath Adam’s skin at his closeness, but he doesn’t dare reach out with his grace yet; not after the way Adam had thrown himself off the bed, then fought like a man staring death in the face. He’d been terrified and Michael hasn’t struggled with this much regret in so long, he doesn’t know what to do.

But apparently Dean does, so Michael will listen.

Castiel steps lightly, drawing closer, and Michael sinks to his knees, edge of the blanket wringing between his fingers as he watches Adam dream now in broken images of Windom. It’s a deep sleep, his slow, even breaths tickling Michael’s knuckles. He imagines Adam blinking slowly awake with his forehead against Michael’s, the slow, warm slide of his cheek as he moves to rest his head on the angel’s shoulder and fall asleep again. Michael just wants to hold him. He’s so close, he wants it badly enough that he sees it playing out in his mind’s eye and he can’t believe he isn’t already doing it.

The only reason he doesn’t take Adam’s shoulder, crush him against his chest, is his scars. It’s not a risk worth tempting, because if they tore... it would be kinder to kill him.

Michael trusts Castiel would pry him away without hesitation. Castiel is not afraid of him anymore and, on most days, this is a good thing.

Even so, Michael’s having trouble working through reason when he’s gone these few days without Adam’s conceited smirk or fond exasperation that always, inevitably, melted into indulgent affection (even if it was barbed with sarcasm).

He worries it won’t be as inevitable when Adam opens his eyes again.

“… Come with me,” Castiel offers.

“Where?” Michael asks, because they both know there is only so far he could follow Castiel.

Castiel looks to the window and the summer rain-clouds.

“Let’s fly.”

Michael considers it and, after a long beat, nods. He sees the glance Castiel spares for Dean, but he says nothing and gathers his wings, following his brother to the sky.