It isn’t many beings that get a second chance to start over in another universe.
His last attempt to bring paradise might have gone a little awry, Michael thinks to himself as he flies away from the church and those puny mud monkeys and the burnt remains of the pathetic excuse for a brother. He knows now that he was wasteful in his first universe, discarding so many souls that could have been put to work to restore his Father’s world. And he should have stamped out the pesky pockets of resistance much sooner.
But he has learnt his lesson. It will not happen again.
He will do better this time.
But first, he needs a new outfit. There’s no point in being the Ruler of All when your vessel is still garbed in lumberjack castoffs.
He will bring fire and glory, and he will do it while looking fabulous.
Michael turns in the mirror to inspect his suit. He tugs at the collar, adjusting it on his shoulders, and with a thought disintegrates the third puny human who was about to come and annoy him about his fitting. He is an Archangel, his Father’s first and greatest weapon. He does not require any of these ‘shop assistants’.
He turns to the side and tips the hat. That’s better! He gives himself his most intense look, the one he has been practising in secret to use on his troops and enemies in the days of glory to come, and feels a great swell of self-satisfaction. He looks intimidating! He looks regal! He looks commanding! He looks-
Ugly , whispers a tiny voice from the back of his brain.
The suit. The voice says again, small and smarmy but still very much audible. The suit is fucking ugly.
Michael would think it was the vessel insulting him once again, but the vessel isn’t even awake. He had gotten tired of its whining after only ten minutes, all my brother! this and Cas! that, very tedious.
So how is he hearing that voice? It is almost as though it’s another part of the human’s mind altogether, a subconscious part. He narrows his eyes at his reflection. He will crush it. No resistance can be permitted. Besides, he knows this suit makes him look impressive.
Outdated , corrects the voice. You look like a gangster movie reject. What a faker.
Michael grits his teeth. His eyes start to glow with temper.
Wow. That’s worse. What are you, a Thriller ripoff?
Incensed, Michael dives into his own brain. He will crush this infuriating part of the vessel’s mind if he has to! He no longer cares about maintaining a bargaining chip with those pesky human rebels, how dare it insult him like this? He stomps as hard as he can on where the voice originated.
He has one moment of smug satisfaction. He relaxes.
And then- Can’t even control one human. How pathetic.
Michael is appalled. He stomps again, but the voice is still there, jeering at him! How can this be? The vessel’s brain itself can’t be trying to reject him, can it?
Whatever the cause, won’t stand for this. Still glaring into the fitting room mirror, he prods the vessel’s consciousness awake.
Mmmmm? Wha’? Where am I? Michael! Get out of my skin, you bastard, or I swear to Chuck I’ll rip out your grace myself! Wait, why am I in a monkey suit?
Michael briefly closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and manages to ignore the ‘monkey suit’ comment. “Vessel! Where is that voice coming from?”
The vessel is slow to respond. Voice?
“Yes! The voice which keeps insulting me and my fashion choices!”
Oh! That! The vessel sounds surprised. That’s always been there. Then, sounding unsure, you don’t get that normally?
“No! What do you mean ‘it’s always there!?’”
Woah, dude, you’re lucky if you’ve never had to deal with insecurity before. The vessel chuckles with what Michael feels is an unreasonable amount of petty spite. But hey, you know what? It’s your problem now!
“What!? Where are you going!? Come back!”
But the vessel is already buried too deeply to be retrieved. Michael curses, his wings ruffling against his will. He scowls again at his reflection. The only things he can see about the suit now are the parts that the voice has pointed out. How the jacket is a little baggy on the waist. How the sleeves are just a bit too short. How the hat is old-fashioned.
Suddenly, he doesn’t feel like shopping any more. The fun has gone out of it.
As he spreads his wings to go, he catches one more glance in the mirror. Ugly, the voice reminds him.
Something is wrong.
It is as though the wind has been taken from under his wings. Everything appears to be going to plan, and yet… and yet Michael feels very much like he wants to curl up under a rock and cease existing for a few millennia.
It is… unnerving.
So unnerving that he has spent the last half an hour sitting on the floor of an abandoned warehouse, crying like a human infant. He is deeply glad that none of his lieutenants are alive in this universe to see it. It is a most humiliating experience.
“I am the glorious. I am Almighty!” he croaks to himself. Usually the words ring with truth, but it doesn’t appear to be working any more. They merely echo back at him from the gloomy surroundings.
“Why am I sad?” He demands, angry at himself, at the vessel, at the world, but seemingly unable to do anything about it.
Dude, you’ve just gotta ride it out, is the vessel’s unwelcome opinion. Michael scowls. The vessel is remembering his father dealing with similar situations by telling his vessel to ‘grow a pair and deal with it’. A deeply ineffective command, in Michael’s expert opinion.
“Of course you are subject to this unpleasantness,” he explains to the vessel. “You are nothing but a human, a pathetic speck on this cosmos. It is natural that you should suffer for that. I, on the other hand, am an archangel, the most glorious of my Father’s creations. I contain no such flaws.”
And yet, he felt so small. So isolated... there could be only one explanation.
“It must be a defect in your vessel.”
Hey! There’s nothing wrong with my vessel!
“These symptoms suggest otherwise.” Michael stands, straightening his suit with as much dignity as a being who has been crying on the floor for half an hour can. “I see that you have been neglecting your vessel with this denial of the facts. I do not have such a luxury if I am to be in fit shape to bring paradise to this Earth.”
If one thing Michael is not, it is negligent. If there is an issue with his vessel it must be taken care of. He would rather take another one without a flaw, obviously, but in this universe angelic vessels seem to be in short supply. Michael can work with what he’s got. He can!
Which is why he has found this place. He squints at the writing beside the door. ‘Natural Psychology’. This is where humans come to get their vessels fixed, yes? Anyway, that’s what the ‘internet’ had told him.
This is bullshit is what it is, the vessel grumbles. Goddamn vegetable water and clean living hippies. Michael decides to ignore its whinging.
Michael strides up to the woman behind the counter. “Something is wrong with my vessel. I require it to be healed.”
The woman raises a meticulously threaded eyebrow. They look good, Michael notes. Maybe he should get his eyebrows threaded too? Later, he tells himself.
The human is chattering again. “Your… body? There’s something wrong with your body?”
“That’s what I said. My body has a chronic inability to produce dopamine. Fix it.”
She perks up. “Oh! You’re depressed? How long has that been going on?”
“I believe it has been a problem for some years. This was before I was possessing it, of course. I prefer to keep my vessels in good health. Its last owner was not as thoughtful.”
The stupid human looks confused. “Well, I don’t believe in prescribing medications, you don’t want synthetic chemicals polluting your, um, vessel do you? But I do have some alternatives! Have you tried yoga? By opening your connection to nature you can-”
Michael smites her on the spot.
Dude, the vessel comments disapprovingly as they look down at the steaming pile of ashes, they can’t just magically fix depression. I’m not saying she wasn’t annoying as hell, but there isn’t a pill you can take and bam, it’s gone. You have to go to therapy and shit. And go outside more. And talk to people. Hell, maybe I do have depression, the vessel admits ruefully, and maybe I should have done something about it years ago, but it’s not gonna go away overnight. You gotta put in effort.
“I do not wish to put in effort,” Michael snaps, crossing his arms. This argument is making him feel like a sulking human child. He does not like it at all.
Yeah well, suck it up, buddy. That’s being human.
“And I am not human!”
The vessel sounds inordinately smug. Sure you’re not, big shot. Say, how’s that second apocalypse coming along again?
Suddenly, the thought of conducting an apocalypse seems absolutely exhausting, and he finds that he would prefer to find a hotel room with the curtains drawn and lie on the bed with the covers over his head.
Michael draws himself up by pure force of willpower. He will not fail in his mission!
The fallen seraph is here to try and stop him. Again. How foolish.
Michael decides that he will descend upon him from above, to demonstrate just how weak and insignificant this Castiel is before him. They shall witness him falling upon them like Divine Judgement itself!
To his irritation, the vessel groans. Come on, man, anything but this again. I let you have your drama-queen pissy fit with Lucifer, but enough with the hovering, okay? Makes this look like a badly controlled puppet show.
The seraph sees him and its grace lights up with fury. Its blade appears, ready to do battle. Michael represses a victorious smirk. Finally, a battle he can win! This is what he has been waiting for! “Nothing can save you from the Empty now, Castiel!”
“Michael!” Castiel’s eyes are glowing blue and his voice growls. “You will release him!”
Why is he so sexy when he’s mad? The vessel interrupts. There are a great deal of repressed images coming to the surface. Some very inappropriate images. Some of them involve the seraph in… are those cowboy boots? And isn’t that the vessel’s car??
Hmm. That is an unusual reaction. And his vessel’s blood supply seems to be diverting against his wishes.
The Seraph’s eyes have stopped glowing. They’re both staring down at the unruly bulge. Why can’t he make it go away? This is mortifying!
The seraph looks up at him. “...Dean?”
Cas! The vessel is shouting from inside. Cas! In here!
“SILENCE!!” Michael bellows.
“I’m coming for you, Dean! I’ll get you out of there, I promise!” Castiel’s eyes have gone disgustingly watery and expressive as he blatantly ignores Michael’s orders. “Hang on!”
Michael tries to press his advantage and stab him while he’s busy emoting but the vessel keeps getting in the way, with its annoying wailing and throwing himself at Michael’s grace. Finally, Michael gives up. Killing the seraph is more trouble than it’s worth. And after all, he’d be back in four episodes anyway.
“No! Wait! Come back!” Castiel cries after him as he disappears, “I had a speech ready where I almost but don’t quite confess my love!”
Michael flies faster.
I dunno why I can’t just admit it to him, the vessel bemoans to Michael later that night after they have consumed the first half of the liquor store. I love him, you know? But whenever I want to tell him I just… clam up. And so does he. It’s like we’re all emotionally constipated or something.
“Maybe it’s because your father never truly loved you,” Michael slurs in a drunken last-ditch attempt of petty meanness, gesturing with the last of the vodka. Usually he would consider himself above such things, but after putting up with a serious lack of dopamine and now this irrational pining, he’s not feeling very generous. “Maybe you were always just too much of a disappointment, and now you can’t love anyone else properly because of it.”
It’s a low blow. Even his twisted moral compass gives a twinge.
But instead of retreating into despondent inebriated silence like Michael had hoped, the vessel retorts, That’s rich for someone whose Daddy abandoned them then went on to destroy the world just because you wanted to impress him. You think he’d be proud of you destroying his creation?
Michael feels an unexpected stab of hurt. “You… you know nothing of my Father!”
But why did it hurt, he realises? Why would this puny humans words hurt if they weren’t true?
The vessel gives an internal shrug. Yeah, probably not that well, but I’ve met him a few times now. He’s never mentioned you. Kind of an asshole, to be honest.
“Not… not even once?”
Nope, sorry dude. He did mention his cat blog, though.
The vessel is right, he realises. His father would never be proud. What is he even doing here? It's pointless. It's all pointless. He breaks off the neck of the bottle of vodka and downs it in one like the world’s largest shot.
And that’s what we call an existential crisis.
“I hate you.”
They work their way through the rest of the liquor store, Michael ignoring the vessel bemoaning that a bender wasn’t complete until he was bedecked in women’s underwear, until finally he collapses with the final whisky bottle in hand.
“How do you rest?” he asks the vessel. He has never needed to rest before, but the existential exhaustion seems to be constantly weighing on him. But at the same time, whenever he does try to rest he can’t- he just lies there in a blanket of dull grey apathy, trying but unable to will himself up.
Alcohol? That would explain why he had to heal the liver. He might have to heal it again once he has finished with this ‘bender’.
Cas fell asleep after he drank an entire liquor store once, the vessel muses. Might not work for an archangel, though.
Look at you now, you washed up loser, the smarmy voice from the back of the vessel's head whispers. And you know the worst part? Nobody ever thought you were cool.
Michael sobs and reaches for the bottle. It’s worth a shot.
The vessel pauses, then just as Michael's about to raise the bottle to his lips, it speaks again. You know… if you weren’t possessing me, you wouldn’t have to deal with any of this.
Michael pulls up short, realisation blooming.
What is he doing? The vessel’s right! What is he still doing in this sad sack of skin?
If he goes, everything that's been hounding him for the last month will vanish. No more depression, no more uncertainty, no more painful lack of self-confidence!
Michael can’t vacate the vessel fast enough. He escapes Dean Winchester’s anxiety-ridden flesh with nothing more than massive relief, the light of his being exploding out of the dingy liquor store as he spreads his wings. Free at last!
His apocalypse plans are going to have to be put on hold, he decides as he wings his way towards the Atlantic ocean- he’s due a holiday.
“What do you mean he just… let you go?” Sam doesn’t sound like he believes him. Are you sure? the wrinkles in his forehead are practically screaming.
Dean kicks his boots up onto the library table and takes a leisurely sip of beer. Looking at Sam’s face, he makes a mental reminder for himself to buy some more shaving cream so that he can shave Sam’s new beard off while he’s sleeping. “It wasn’t even that hard. He’s gonna go and possess animals for a while, apparently humans were too much for him. So if we start getting reports of evil whales, we’ll know to bring the angel-blade-tipped harpoons. But hey, where were you while Michael was all up in my business? I didn't see you out looking for me.”
Sam just shrugs, the bastard. “Checking my emails? Teaching Jack how to tie his shoelaces? Like a bit of angelic possession could kill you. I wasn’t even worried. Winchesters are like cockroaches. Even if you did die, you'd be crawling out of your grave in a week, tops. I'm glad you're back, though- Cas was starting to get anxious.”
As much of a bastard as he is, Sam is kinda right. They can’t keep the Winchesters down if they try, and boy have they tried.
Which makes this the time for Dean to turn his life around, apologise to Sam and Jack for his godawful coping mechanisms and acting like a mean jerk, admit his undying love for Cas, and get that sweet, sweet booty.
He claps his brother on the shoulder. “Hey, Sammy, have you ever thought about us gettin’ some therapy?”