When Lucifer dies, Michael mainly feels relief.
He did love Lucifer once, he knows. He raised him, he cared about him, he did. This...creature, this snarling thing barely feels like his younger brother. Too much has changed in him. Still, Michael can’t help but feel some sadness. Would Lucifer have changed his mind without Chuck’s influence?
Probably not – Lucifer was in the Cage, outside of the reach of all with them. And Lucifer had already rebelled. You would think he could have learned if he’d wanted to. After all, Michael did.
Although Michael had an excellent teacher -
- a wash of sorrow and despair almost escapes Michael’s carefully constructed walls before he slams the gates down on it again, pushing it down, down until all is still and frost again. He almost misses the distant, slow creep of his emotions from before; he could manage those, they hurt but they never overwhelmed. If he lets these walls come down now, though…
...he doesn’t know what he’ll do. He doesn’t know anything anymore. The future, once so bright and shining and full of love, has gone empty and dark and cold, a space in Michael’s borrowed chest, a yawning void where he should be.
He registers distantly the Winchesters staring at him. He can’t bring himself to care.
He drops his sword on the ground with a clatter and steps over Lucifer’s corpse, stalking away to find somewhere quiet to wait.
Wait for what, he had no idea.
Dean Winchester comes to find him an unknowable amount of time later.
Michael should hate this man, he thinks. Maybe he does. Not for Michael’s own imprisonment – in the scheme of things for him, it was – awful, yes, but he would have more life beyond it. (He can hear his voice telling him not to downplay his own feelings; he ignores it.) Winchester had very little time, not nearly enough to convince him to stop, and they were enemies. Michael can understand imprisoning him.
Whenever he looks at Winchester though, all he can think of is that he had so few years of freedom. Less than two decades topside before he went into the Cage for fifteen hundred and twenty-four years; it seems so monstrously unfair it makes Michael want to scream.
It didn’t seem so quite so much before, but that was when they were going to be together. When Michael had the warmth of himlike a miniature sun. Now -
- if this was always the end, than at least they could have let him enjoy his last few years.
Distantly, he registers that Winchester said something.
Winchester blinks, grip tightening on the beer in his hand. He doesn’t take a step back, but he looks like he wants to.
“I said,” he says slowly, eyes on Michael like he’s afraid he’ll lunge for him, “That it’s good that you were here. To deal with Lucifer, I mean.”
“Oh.” Yes, he supposes, with the Nephil missing his powers (he has growing suspicions about that; but neither the time or energy to investigate. Let the Nephil keep his secrets, what does it matter?). “I guess.”
This plainly was not the answer Winchester wanted. He leans back on their kitchen counter, eyes shadowed as he scrutinizes Michael. Michael could tell what he was thinking if he wanted to, but it no longer seems like such an inconsequential thing to do. He could tell what he was thinking, but that’s because he shared it openly, let Michael have him and know him and knew Michael in turn.
If Winchester has something he wants Michael to know, he can say it just fine.
“When we first met,” Winchester starts carefully, “You told me you raised Lucifer. That you loved him, that you didn’t want to kill him, but you would because it was your father’s orders.”
He had said that, hadn’t he. It had been to be manipulative, but it hadn’t been wholly untrue. It was simply that the part that wasn’t true wasn’t that he had orders to kill Lucifer, it was that he didn’t want to kill him in the first place.
“I did say that.” He keeps his voice cool, calm, robotic.
Winchester shifts, visibly uneasy. He takes a sip from his beer, clearly a nervous reflex. He liked alcohol as well, but Michael thinks even he (kind and un-judging as he is – was –) would find that a bit much.
“You doing okay?” Winchester asks eventually.
The aching space in Michael where once there was light and love and kindness even in Hell widens even further.
“Of course,” he says.
They look at each other for a few seconds. Clearly Winchester isn’t getting whatever he wants. Michael, having absolutely nothing to lose, sees no reason to give it to him.
Wait. “That word Lucifer called me,” he starts. “What does it mean?” He’d been doing his best to teach Michael about Earth, but he’d come from a small town and been gone for ten years. They’d come to find there were some very noticeable gaps in his knowledge too. It had been okay, though, because they’d been able to work through them together -
Winchester doesn’t look like he knows if he wants to laugh or not. “It’s, uh...”
The explanation is mercifully (for the both of them) short. Michael tilts his head, considering that.
Bold, he decides, of someone who never broke free of their father, to call him weak. He supposes it’s not wholly out of character – Lucifer did always define himself by what others thought. “Hm.” Something beats against his walls of ice. He builds them up higher.
Winchester eyes him. “Mike?”
“How is your brother doing with the book?” He would not have liked being in Hell with this person, he decides. It’s not like with him it had always been smooth sailing either, but at least when he was being annoying it was interesting. He was always interesting, had always been interesting, even when Michael was dismissing what he talked about as nonsense.
Winchester is still looking at him strangely, but he sets the bottle down and goes to look. Michael has a split-second where he expects to hear gentle laughter, a quiet, sarcastic comment – but there is nothing, and will always be nothing, and Michael is alone.
He sits, and waits.
It is just, he thinks, like being back in the Cage.
Michael does not believe that the ritual will work. He should have known about such a thing if it was real – he already told them the real one, even. He sees no hint of a Leviathan blossom in this one, no hint of any of the plants that grew from the Darkness when her essence struck the Earth during their fight. It won’t work, it can’t work, and so when they light the last bowl and nothing happens, Michael is not surprised.
“You must have found a ritual for one of the Pagans,” Michael says. “Now what?” Now, nothing, now, a dead world, but he wants to know what they’ll say.
He looks up at the Winchesters. For some reason, they are staring at him.
“Aren’t you going to -” Dean starts, before Sam elbows him in the stomach.
Michael frowns. “Was I meant to do something? You should have told me before.” He’s not surprised they would have forgotten an aspect of the ritual, they don’t have his memory or sense for the scientific matters, but it’s a little disappointing. These are Father’s main characters?
All three of the Winchesters glance at each other. Under the Nephil Jack’s feet, the sand loses its color, the rock eroding more into fine dust. If Michael wasn’t all ice and stone right now, he might have commented.
“You -” Sam cuts himself off. Jack says nothing, looking between the two brothers. He looks small. His Grace doesn’t carry his father’s Hellish taint. Michael was still a little twitchy around a Nephil, but now, on this lake, he can only feel somewhat sad. He’s gathered that Kline’s mother is dead, and he’s had no choice about anything that’s happened to him for any of the years of his life, Dean Winchester even attempting to imprison him at one point. He reminds him of -
- no one, anymore.
“We, um,” Sam swallows. He looks around for immoral support, and finding none, continues. “We thought you were going to tell Chuck about this?”
He’s been told a lot of things in his life that he didn’t understand, seen a lot of people come up with ideas he never would have dreamed of in his life. Some of them were good – he said a lot of things that Michael never fully got (he never had time to explain -). Some of them – Michael’s mind feels blank and white. He fumbles for words for a few seconds, the only thing coming to mind being “Why?”
He wouldn’t do that. It may not be his world, but it was – it was his, and he would never forgive Michael if he – Michael has to try to save it, for him, even if he’s gone from the world forevermore at least Michael can give him this, can save the world he threw away his life because he wanted to protect. Michael can do this for him, he would never -
The Winchesters, Nephil included, look at each other. They have looks of dawning realization on their faces, the look of men learning the world isn’t quite what they knew.
“Hold on,” Dean snaps. He looks angry – as he usually does. “Aren’t you still loyal to Chuck?”
Michael didn’t realize just how much he got all the sense in this stupid family. Either that or Chuck had just casually scrubbed out the last remaining brain cells from his half-brothers’ heads. “Why would I still be loyal?” His father cast him aside, only cared about him as a side character, a narrative foil to Dean, his father let all of this happen for his own amusement, his father killed - “Adam is dead.”
Michael thinks, all things considered, he can be forgiven for lunging for Dean’s throat.
The Nephil never lets him get close. There’s a rush and then Michael is stumbling forward, empty air in his hands instead of Dean Winchester’s neck. He feels the power from the brat, strange as it is, and spins on instinct. He’s fought Nephilim before, and it’s always best to go on the offensive, to strike before they can get a chance to strike back, which is how his instincts send him into a crouch, his wings flaring and his power rising to his fingertips -
- too late he remembers himself, remembers their enemy. His power is only singing out through this clearing for a moment, for a second, less than that even, and he folds his wings away but -
- “Well, isn’t this nice. Family reunion.”
- It isn’t fast enough.
Michael rises slowly.
Before, his head felt cold, frozen and dead as the Cage itself. Now, there’s this strange, light feeling creeping over him, like something inside has finally caved in from the pressure. There’s nothing in him but the rush of wind.
“Hello, Chuck,” he hears himself say from a thousand miles away.
Chuck – Father – God grimaces. Once, that expression would have had Michael on his knees, begging, promising anything if Father would forgive him.
If nothing else - if nothing else, he’s going to do this on his feet.
“Wow, Mikey,” Chuck sighs. “Disrespect, too? Shame.”
“It’s what you chose to call yourself,” Michael says. Behind him, he thinks the Winchesters are doing something. He won’t look. “I’m only respecting your wishes.”
The way Father smiles tells Michael all he needs to know. There’s no way Michael will leave this lakeside alive.
At this point, it’s almost a relief.
“Is this what Adam taught you? To think you’re smart?” God says, crossing his arms. Michael jerks at the sound of his name. It feels jarring, somehow, to hear someone besides him say it. Like hearing someone say the name of someone out of a dream.
“Really, Michael? You would choose the side character over your own father?”
Not a side character, Michael wants to scream. Someone filled with light such as Heaven has never seen, kindness that can survive Hell, a will and drive that can outlast over a thousand years of imprisonment. It’s light like Adam’s that Michael thought his father had, once. Where did he go wrong?
He knows his Father’s feelings about traitors. Whichever path he takes, he will die. There’s no question about that.
He doesn’t say that Adam would want him to die with honor, because Adam would never have wanted anything bad to happen to Michael at all. But he thinks of the little star whose light was brighter than Lucifer’s, the human who refused to let Michael force his silence for a hundred years straight, and he thinks Adam could be proud of him for this. For not forgetting what Adam taught him. For not going back to this man’s side like a kicked dog.
He raises his head. “You were never my father.” His voice rings clear and cold over the lake waters. It sounds steady. Inside him, the howling wind gets louder. “You made me to be your slave. I don’t owe you for that.” You made me a slave. Adam showed me how to be more.
The false smile on Chuck’s face falls, replaced by a look of seething fury. “Don’t be an idiot, Michael,” he snarls. Then just as fast it’s gone, and Chuck extends a hand. “Come on, Mikey,” he says, and Michael wonders if his father’s voice has always sounded so false. Was it ever real? Does it matter? “You could come with me and help me build a new story, if I wanted. You don’t want the other option.”
Michael can’t help but laugh. Everything is happening far away. His voice comes to him as if from the end of a long tunnel.
“Why wouldn’t I, Father?” he says, still choking back giggles he knows sounds hysterical, as insane as Lucifer claimed he was. Maybe by talking to Him, he’s given the Winchesters time to pull off one of their stupid plans. Maybe his death will mean something, unlike his life. Maybe wherever God sent Adam this time, he’ll send Michael to the same place. Adam, Adam, I’m sorry, I tried - “What do I have to lose?”
He’s still laughing as the light takes him.
Darkness, the clamor of voices. Something is missing, something important – something with a name long-forgotten. He is alone in the dark.
A rush of air, and then he is falling, falling into the black. Light flashes, and then -
- with a gasp, he sits up.
“Welcome back,” a voice says. He isn’t paying attention, too busy reveling in the feeling of having limbs again, of having presence, being real again. He is here, he’s alive, he’s -
- kneeling on the asphalt in front of a convenience store. Well. Worse places to be reborn exist, he supposes. He can feel the thrum of life, of presences returning all around him. The world is waking up again, being born anew.
He looks up.
“What the fuck did you do?” bursts out of his mouth before he can stop it. Behind Jack Kline, Dean makes a strangled noise, while Sam covers his mouth and turns his face away. All of that pales in comparison to Kline, because Michael knows this power. He felt it just a moment before, ripping him into shreds -
All in white, Kline smiles, and galaxies move in his eyes. “Just a change in management,” he says airily.
Michael frowns. Kline is a child. Even by the standards of his mother’s species, he’s a child. A child as God? And even ignoring that...”How -”
“We can talk about that later,” Kline interrupts. He extends a hand and Michael takes it, letting himself be pulled up. “I think I have something you’re going to find more interesting.”
Michael tenses. There are so many things that could mean.
“I have His powers now,” Jack says, confirming what Michael had thought. “And He was the one who sent everyone away. That doesn’t seem fair to me.” He smiles, and despite everything, his eyes are kind. “Especially not for you. Or him, either.”
He snaps his fingers.
For a moment, it seems like nothing happened. Then the blue-white light of a soul coalesces in front of him, and Michael -
- he knows this soul. Even if he didn’t see him for a thousand, ten thousand, a million years, he would know this soul.
Gently, gently, he reaches up to touch. He fears to go too quickly, fears to harm him or even worse, pop this illusion like a soap bubble. Fire starts to spit and grow somewhere inside him and the walls of ice around himself start to melt under the heat.
“Adam?” he whispers, cradling the soul with his – Adam’s – hands. “Is that you?”
The soul shifts, chimes. Waking up, Michael realizes. Coming back to himself, coming back to Michael.
Slowly, slowly, the soul drifts out of Michael’s grasp and into his chest. Michael gasps at that touch, and the walls of ice inside him break and come cracking to the ground as that empty void inside of him is once again filled with the light, the blinding fire of Adam’s emotions, the worry, the confusion, the concern, the gentle thrum of his soul where only a moment before there’d been darkness and silence. He can barely think through the feeling of light spreading back through their veins, filling the empty spaces, the touch of Adam’s soul where he’d been cold and numb.
He doesn’t even try to stop himself as he turns and flings himself at Adam, crushing the man’s apparition to his chest. Adam makes a startled noise as he brings his arms up on reflex, wrapping them around Michael’s shoulders. There’s something to be said for human expressions of affection, Michael thinks dizzily. It’s so good to hold Adam, to feel his presence against Michael, almost good enough to wash away the memory of his soul winking out like a puff of smoke.
There’s a quiet cough. Michael turns his head (not releasing Adam, not even for a second) to see Jack give him a strange smile. Sam and Dean are staring at the two of them wide-eyed. Distantly Michael registers that he didn’t put up a perception filter – they must be able to see Adam.
“We’ll leave you alone,” Jack says, and there’s weight behind the statement. In between one heartbeat and the next, the three of them are gone.
Good. He doesn’t want anyone else right now, anyway.
“Hey.” Michael turns back around at Adam’s voice. The man is trembling, ever so slightly against Michael’s hold. He brings his hands up to cup Michael’s face, and it’s a testament to his boundless strength and resilience that his voice only shakes a little as he says, “What happened? Are you okay?”
This little human died, for the third time, died and was in the cold and the dark and woke up in a fucking convenience store parking lot and the first thing he does is ask if Michael’s okay. Michael hadn't thought he had room for more affection for Adam.
Distantly he registers that at some point he started to cry. He could stop it if he wanted to, but that would require taking his attention off his little star, his Adam for even half a second. Instead, alone, he presses his face into Adam’s hands instead, letting the man see the weight of his grief that’s evaporated like dew in the morning sun. Adam’s breath catches, and he leans forward so they’re standing with their foreheads pressed together, while inside his soul starts to wrap itself around Michael in turn. So close that maybe, maybe, they couldn’t be pulled apart.
“I am now,” Michael says. “I am now.”