blue_bells: BY <lj user="chosenfire28"> (Supernatural :: Somewhere to Begin - dar)
[personal profile] blue_bells
» Title: Somewhere to Begin - Part III (MASTERPOST)
» Author: [profile] _bluebells
» Artist: [personal profile] chosenfire28
» Beta: [personal profile] ladyknightanka, [personal profile] mishaphappens
» Pairing(s)/Character(s): Michael/Adam, Dean/Castiel, Lucifer/Sam/Gabriel, Raphael/Balthazar, Bobby and others
» Warnings: NC-17/R for violence, torture, gore, dub-con, angelcest, language, alcohol, and character death
» Spoilers: All seasons, AU from Season 5 finale
» Summary: Adam Milligan was just another casualty of the engine of the apocalypse. After Michael breaks them out of the Cage, Adam is accidentally thrown into the future where peace has finally settled by strange circumstances. With his memories sealed to protect his sanity, Adam learns the censored, Apocalypse-free version of the life he's forged with a suite of archangels, a crabby adopted Uncle, and brothers he never knew he had, but this has all happened before and will happen again.

PREVIOUS / NEXT


Dean flat-out refuses when he realises who Castiel wants to call.

“No. No way – we’re not even safe in the same room with him without Mike.”

Castiel sighs, conceding it with a nod.

“Then, should we call Michael?”

“No. It’s still too soon,” Dean says, immediately, shaking his head.

He wants to keep Michael as far away from this as possible and if it was for completely selfish reasons, he’d have to save that conversation for Castiel and his eye-rolling later. Not that Castiel rolled his eyes, but hanging around Michael and Adam, he was picking up some bad habits.

“… Should we say Michael is the healer?” Castiel suggests and he’s looking at Dean like he has a headache.

“Cas, Mike is not a healer.” It was pretty clear that Castiel was grasping at straws.

“All angels can assess the health of a vessel, Dean. Some better than others. Michael and I are astute, but we’ve already established that I am not a healer-doctor.”

“Doctor.”

“I’m not a doctor, Dean.”

Dean’s face twists as he considers the other possible and completely unintentional fall-out of asking Michael to take on the mantle: he really didn’t want to listen to any of Sam’s jokes about playing doctor.

Maybe Dean and Bobby could go over their contacts and see if there were any old friends in a reasonable driving distance. There weren’t many left.

They knew Adam was fine – mostly. They were just doing this for his peace of mind, so maybe they could wing this one, too.

“Can I sleep on it?” Dean eventually asks.

Castiel nods, seriously, as though the question is ridiculous.

“Of course.”

Dean ducks his head back into the kitchen and asks Bobby to join them. He’s got to keep this in check before it has the chance to get out of hand.

“Strategic liaison officer?” Bobby smirks at Castiel when he comes around the corner.

Castiel nods, raising an eyebrow.

“I saw it on Sam’s curriculum vitae. He performed this role as a college summer job and I thought it was… accurate.”

Dean blinks, momentarily side-tracked by this new piece of information.

“Has Sam been searching for jobs?”

Castiel shrugs and somehow that cocked eyebrow looks patronizing when it’s turned on Dean.

“Sam has to feed himself on the road and he is an effective communicator.”

“Boy’s strategic,” Bobby pipes in with his own shrug and Dean’s safely sure that neither of them really have any idea, or care, what a ‘strategic liaison officer’ does. They should probably stop while they were ahead.

Still, he’s grateful for the breadcrumb of news, even if he had to hear it from Castiel. It’s good to know Sam was taking care of himself while he was away, and smartly, from the sound of it.

“Adam went down when he was nineteen, but legally he’s twenty-four. Either of you shared this?” Dean asks.

Castiel shakes his head and Bobby’s mouth twists with that quizzical frown.

“No, why?”

“Okay,” Dean breathes out, points the order at the both of them, “Keep this between us. As of this second, that factoid is a nada. Non-relevant.”

Bobby snorts under his breath.

“Already figured we were selling him the story of his life to date. I just wonder where it’s left the other Adam.”

“Well, don’t,” Dean growls, because if he dwells on that, too, he might be sick.

Castiel’s frowning again in that soft, cautious way he considers things and Dean just wishes he would play ball and take direction without question for once. Wasn’t that supposed to be what angels were good at?

“Dean, we don’t know if it’s truly irrelevant. Remember what I told you in the garden – Adam’s soul is being pulled in a different direction –“

Bobby’s eyes go wide.

“What?”

“He may not stay with us,” Castiel finishes.

“And just when were you two knuckleheads going to share this information?” Bobby growls. “It could be Lucifer dragging him back to that Hell dimension—“

Dean grinds his jaw.

“Thanks, Bobby, we covered that Hallmark possibility. There’s nothing you can do, so I didn’t want you to worry. It’s Mike and Cas’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Castiel’s blue eyes harden, the line of his shoulders straightening with tension as he steps into Dean’s personal space. Dean snorts a laugh, because somehow knowing his friend, the leading angel of the Lord, could rip him in half always failed to intimidate him until he was in the process of coming apart and by then it was too late to do anything but hope for mercy and know he’d be stupid enough to do it all over again next time.

Castiel is annoyed.

“My job is to return order to Heaven. My job, Dean, is to ensure your parents’ final resting place doesn’t fall to anarchy and disrepair after everything we and your friends sacrificed to win it back. I wish I could stay, I wish I could do everything you asked of me, but I have other responsibilities. Michael won’t leave any stone unturned and Bobby wants to help; let him.”

Castiel is already turning away with the decent intent to use the front door.

“You don’t want to stay for soup?” Dean smirks, as he straightens with his hands on his hips.

Castiel glances from the kitchen light spilling into the living room, to Dean in the dark hallway. He shakes his head and it annoys Dean that there’s no regret in his face, not even that familiar shade of confusion. He just looks angry.

Dean knew he didn’t need to eat. That wasn’t the point.

“I’m needed upstairs. Call me when you make your decision about the healer.”

And then Castiel’s gone, door clicking shut behind him, and Dean’s not surprised, but he’s still disappointed. His chin drops to his chest, laughing dryly at the joke he’s become and pushes his hands deep back in their pockets.

Bobby shifts beside him, quiet scuff of denim and boots in the dark.

“You all right?”

Dean glowers at him and Bobby just raises his hands in surrender. He follows Dean back into the kitchen, but Dean hears the sigh Bobby always made when he was calling them names in his head.

What the hell did Bobby want him to do, talk about it?

They were hunters; they drank about it.

-*-


Adam is cold, stressed, and has the feeling his body is just staving off an inevitable meltdown, but at least the soup is hot.

“Is that your girlfriend?” Adam sips from his spoon and pulls the blanket tighter around his shoulders.

Sam looks up from his phone, fingers paused mid-text, and the bright, involuntary smile that lights up his face gives Adam his answer.

“Something like that.”

“Oh yeah?”

“It’s… complicated.” Sam shrugs, like an apology he can’t explain, but he’s still smiling and Adam was starting to learn it was hard not return one of this guy’s megawatt grins, especially when he ducked his head in that sweet, sheepish way and – holy crap, maybe Adam was having a revelation after all.

Through his brother?

He burns his tongue drowning his horror in his soup.

“Things usually aren’t as complicated as we think they are, we just let ‘em complicate us,” Adam says, and douses his tongue on his remaining glass of water.

Sam is looking at the message he’s typed and his eyebrows peak helplessly.

“You know….”

Adam swallows a bit too fast and decides to hold out for a refill just a little bit longer.

“Do you like her?”

Sam glances to the side and fiddles with the phone on his knee.

“…Yeah,” Sam says, hushed glow of fondness.

“And does she like you?”

Sam laughs, abrupt and warm. Adam knows it’s a stupid question because anybody Sam liked would have been powerless or stupid to say ‘no’.

“Yeah. Most definitely.”

Adam shrugs.

“So, why’s it complicated?”

Sam sighs and snaps the phone shut, setting it on the table beside his own bowl of soup.

“It’s a long story. I’d rather not get into it right now.”

“Is it like one of Castiel’s things ‘we may not speak of’?”

Sam chuckles, stirring his soup as he nods.

“Yeah, actually, it’s just like that.”

“No wonder your lives are so complicated.” Adam rolls his eyes and Sam laughs in agreement.

Dean and Bobby come back then and Adam glances between them and the archway to the hall expecting to see Castiel, but he doesn’t appear and nobody mentions it. His brother is frowning thoughtfully in response to whatever Bobby’s murmuring by his shoulder and Dean shrugs, conversation clipping to a close as they take seats at the table.

“Hey, this soup isn’t half bad,” Dean says after the first few tablespoons. “I got skills.”

Sam’s phone beeps cheerfully and he flips it open by his knee to read the new message.

“You talking to the old ball and chain?” Bobby nods at the phone.

Adam notices the difference when Bobby asks: Sam doesn’t beam. Instead, his shoulders draw in and his expression narrows to a focused squint on his task. He nods once, awkwardly.

“Are you going to invite her over?” Adam asks.

Dean looks up from his bowl and he’s wearing a cautious expression Adam hasn’t seen before: he looks dangerous. He hopes he never runs into Dean down a dark alley.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Sam admits, hesitantly.

“Yeah, if we want Adam to meet your dark side, we should take some precautions,” Dean says. “Get out the big guns.”

“Hey.” Sam glares at him.

“Torches,” Dean murmurs, nodding thoughtfully, and Adam connects the dots.

“Pitchforks?” he wonders and Sam’s glare abruptly cuts to him as Dean snorts a laugh.

Hey. You can’t talk, you don’t even remember them.”

“’Them’? How many do you have, Sam?” Adam raises an eyebrow in skepticism. “Your harem have any available friends?”

“No, you’re spoken for,” Sam refuses, and it’s not exactly the answer to his question, but it reminds Adam of another one he’d been letting slip all evening. A question which Dean would have preferred he forgot about, judging by the withering look he threw at their larger brother and the suspicious way Sam yelped, jumping in his seat.

Adam looks between them.

“Are you talking about that guy in the photo upstairs?”

“Which photo?” Bobby frowns.

“There’s a couple of photos in this study upstairs: my mom, you two—” Adam gestures at his brothers, “—and me with this guy sitting on an Impala.”

Dean’s face cracks in a slow smile.

“You recognised my baby.”

Now Adam’s really confused.

“Wait, the guy’s with you?”

Sam waves through the confusion clouding over their dinner table again.

“He’s talking about his car; I’ve seen the photo you’re talking about.”

“Who is it?” Dean’s face is suspicious and Adam thinks it’s one of his default expressions.

Sam looks meaningfully at his older brother and nods with a helpless shrug Adam doesn’t understand, and it’s really starting to get on his nerves how Sam seeks Dean’s confirmation for everything.

“Well?” Adam grates out. “You’re saying I’m spoken for; what am I – married?”

Bobby coughs around his mouthful of soup and pounds a fist against his chest when it sounds like it goes down the wrong way. Sam reaches over and slaps a hand on the hunter’s back.

“Deep breaths, Bobby,” Sam encourages.

“Is it Michael? Is that who you’ve been talking about?” Adam grits his teeth.

Dean sighs and spreads his hands around his bowl.

“Look, Adam, the thing with Michael… it’s complicated.”

“I’m hearing a lot of that tonight. Make it simple.”

Dean winces at the challenge, head cocking to the side as he searches the kitchen ceiling for inspiration.

“Michael is –“

“Michael is someone who cares a lot about you, Adam,” Sam fills in, taking his hand back when Bobby’s wheezing has died to a watery cough and he waves Sam off.

Adam pushes down the involuntary flutter in his gut and shrugs.

“Okay. Where is he?”

Why is he not surprised when Bobby and Sam both glance to Dean for the answer?

Dean?” Adam’s eyes narrow at the apparent ringleader and the edges of his metal spoon dig into his skin when his fingers clench it tightly.

“What am I, Google Earth?”

“Is this guy even real?”

“I’m real,” another voice answers.

There’s a man standing in the arched entry to the kitchen when Adam turns to the source of that voice. It’s the man from photo.

Was this a house of ninjas or something? People just kept appearing.

Adam’s eyes narrow as he looks the tall stranger over. It’s the same dark hair, bright brown – almost gold – eyes and he looks exhausted as Adam meets his gaze, hesitant as though he’s not sure what to expect.

“How long have you been standing there?” Adam asks, when what he really wants to know is: ’Are you Michael?’

Dean’s halfway to his feet and he doesn’t look happy.

“Mike! We talked about this—”

Well, that answered that.

Michael shakes his head, that uncertainty fading when he looks to Dean.

“No, you made a decision, but if he wants to see me, I’m staying.”

Adam has pushed out of his chair and he’s halfway across the kitchen before Dean has the chance to complain.

“Come with me,” he tells Michael and reaches for his arm.

“Adam, wait – don’t!” Dean panics and Adam notices Michael also startles, full body twitch, but too late to move out of Adam’s reach.

Adam glares at his supposed brother, not releasing his grip on the arm that feels like one solid muscle. He’s half tempted to dig his fingers in to see if it’d yield at all.

The kitchen releases a collective breath. It feels like this family’s been living on a knife edge for too long, he doesn’t know why, but if Dean’s hysteria is the order they’ve gotten used to, Adam’s going to have to upset a few things around here.

“S’cuse us.” Adam starts pulling Michael after him into the dark hallway.

“Don’t say a damn word,” Dean warns Michael.

Adam throws him a dirty look and just tugs Michael along faster before any sound like agreement can come out of Michael’s confused, fish-like gape. He has to get an account from someone without Dean there to censor the story.

There’s a series of unknown doors, but at least one of them has to give him the privacy he’s looking for. If he’s lucky and he’s right, this might be the only person inclined to give him a straight answer, the whole and however ugly truth.

That is, if Michael cared about him as much as Sam implied.

He shuts a door behind them and finds himself in a spare bedroom with a small bureau and tall mirror in the corner.

Michael is watching him carefully from where he’s stopped by the foot of the bed.

“Are you all right?” he asks, softly and Adam nods on reflex.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m—“ Adam sighs with a wide shrug. He’s confused as all hell.

Michael leans toward Adam as though he wants to reach for him.

He’s a stranger, but Adam wants answers, so he decides to test Sam’s claim.

At first, Michael seems stunned when Adam kisses him. Adam’s never actually kissed another guy before, but he’s a guy, too, and he knows what he likes – besides, how different could it be from kissing a girl?

It’s a few seconds delay, but then Michael moans this broken note of relief into Adam’s mouth and melts against him, wrapping his arms around his waist and torso to pull him comfortably flush where everything fits together and Adam has his proof; they’ve definitely done this before.

Michael smells like fresh-cut grass and rain, but he’s dry. He’s also warm enough Adam thinks he might be running a temperature.

“I was worried,” Michael confesses and his lips press to Adam’s cheek, hug squeezing tighter just for a moment and Adam groans before he can stop himself; for the first time all evening, he stops stressing.

Whether Michael realised it or not, he knew what Adam needed before Adam did and wasn’t that going to be interesting?

“I’m okay.” Adam finds himself nodding, eyes sliding shut when Michael next kisses him, feels the fingers curling tight and pressing into his hair, his scalp, his neck, as though Michael’s assuring himself that Adam’s here and whole. He’s pretty sure he should be freaking out just a bit more and, sure, his heart is hammering, but God, he loves the way Michael kisses him, urgent, sweet and deep as his hands cradle and pull Adam impossibly closer.

Holy crap, he could get used to this. This should be weirder. Why wasn’t it weirder? And how was it possible he was getting turned on so fast by a complete stranger – a guy! He wasn’t gay! But he didn’t hook-up randomly, either, and Libby had been the last person he’d kissed—

His head’s still spinning when Michael pulls away first.

That’s a surprise.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” Michael gasps, lips shining with moisture and swollen, and Adam’s first thought is to reel him back in. He’s relieved when Michael doesn’t let go of him, though the sudden arm’s length of distance between them seems ridiculous and Adam actually notices the cold.

Yeah, probably bi. He’d consider ‘bi’ for this guy.

“Okay, I’ll buy it: you’re my boyfriend or something.” Adam’s pulse is still drumming in his ears.

The hands on his shoulders tighten.

“… What?”

“You’re my something, right?”

Michael’s expression twists with concern and misunderstanding.

“Adam, what are you talking about?”

“Wait, you let me kiss you and then you – you’re not my boyfriend?”

Michael’s face just gets more confused, hoping for an explanation. His hands slide down Adam’s arms until he’s loosely holding his wrists, thumbs circling concern over the back of his hands. It feels good, actually.

“I lost the last five years when I fell off the roof. You were gone, but the three stooges were here when I woke up.”

Michael glances back the way they had come, looking lost.

“The roof? Wh…. Five years?”

“Yeah, the roof – what were you thinking?”

Michael pulls Adam’s hands to his chest and Adam drifts forward, loosely fisting his hands in the dark cotton shirt. This guy was so warm, hot even. Adam laughs at the thought and glances at Michael’s face, but Michael’s gaze drifts downwards to his collar and he shakes his head. Michael holds his hands when Adam lets them drop. The wheels are turning, Adam can see it, and he wonders if Dean already got to him.

“Adam… I’m just glad you’re all right.”

Michael takes Adam’s jaw in his hands, palm skimming down the line of his throat as he searches Adam’s face. It feels like an apology, a plea not to ask and it’s too heavy; despite how well he kisses and holds Adam like a familiar lover, Adam doesn’t know him. He can’t meet all that care and devotion focused so intently on him alone and he finds himself shrinking away, catching their reflection in that tall mirror. From the corner’s angle, they look almost chest-to-chest and, by the trick of perspective, Michael towers over him though the guy couldn’t have had more than an inch's height advantage.

But Michael waits. Eventually, Adam releases an unsteady breath and lets his palm lay flat against Michael’s chest. He grasps for that feeling when Michael held him and all the crap fell away. The air comes a little easier this time.

“I need you to fill in the gaps,” Adam says.

“What don’t you remember?” Michael’s thumb passes over his ear.

Adam laughs under his breath and shakes his head.

“Everything. Pre-med finals were coming up, I was going to meet my friend Josh for the weekend… then I woke up here. I just thought I had a few too many.”

“Do you remember your brothers? Bobby?”

“No.”

“… Then you don’t remember me?”

Adam shakes his head, feeling a genuine twinge of disappointment, mostly empathy. He may not know this guy so well, but he can tell from the little time they’ve had so far that Michael would be disappointed. Michael seemed like a nice guy and Adam hated disappointing people.

“No.”

Michael squeezes his shoulder and nape affectionately.

“… Adam, I’m your angel.”

Adam finally looks up into Michael’s painfully earnest face. He stares, he can’t help himself.

‘Angel’?

The laugh that escapes him is completely accidental and bubbles hysterically.

Trust his luck to wind up in an airy elevated gayship with a man of blue steel who insisted on referring to himself as an angel. After the reflexive hilarity, it rings warning bells for a damsel and sap dynamic that did not turn Adam on. In fact, it was having the opposite effect and Adam pulls his hands back in spite of the hurt and confusion that starts to show in Michael’s face.

“Michael.” Adam has a lot of trouble wiping the bemused smile from his face and just ends up laughing again. “You might not want to say that in front of other people.”

Something changes in Michael’s face, as though he finally understands. He draws up, shoulders pushing back, and the sobriety that crosses his features somehow makes him look five inches taller; another trick of perspective and the low light.

“You really don’t remember anything, do you?”

“It’s what I said.” Adam barely stops himself from rolling his eyes.

“Has anyone told you about your mother?”

The image of that missing person’s report flashes through Adam’s mind, and that imperfect picture of her on his laptop and the study. He has a sinking feeling it’s the only picture he has left of her. The momentary high at Michael’s expense vanishes.

“What do you know?”

“She’s in Heaven. She’s safe.”

Something about the way Michael stresses safe makes Adam frown. Safe from what?

“Do you want to see her?” Michael asks and Adam stares at him like he’s lost his mind.

“You mean… like her grave?”

Michael shakes his head.

“Your mother doesn’t have a grave—“

Adam’s temper flares because there’s no way he’d let his mother go to rest without a headstone, but then Michael raises a hand, appealing for Adam to let him finish.

“—But I think you should speak with her. She’ll put your mind at ease.”

Okay. Michael was either off his nut or he was gently threatening to send Adam to an early grave to reunite with his late mother and Adam didn’t favour either possibility.

He glances surreptitiously around the suddenly claustrophobic space of the room. The earlier peace he’d discovered is quickly fading.

“Castiel,” Michael murmurs, watching Adam’s face carefully.

A brush of air tickles the hair at his neck and Adam starts at the new figure he catches in their reflection. He hadn’t heard the door open.

Castiel is glowering at Michael from the bedside.

What the hell?

Castiel had just appeared. Adam knew he didn’t imagine it.

“Michael. Dean had a plan,” Castiel growls under his breath like he’s come against his will. “We want Adam to have peace. You’ll destroy the design.”

Adam frowns between the two of them.

“What the hell’s going on here?”

“Adam, this is Castiel.” Michael gestures between them.

“Yeah, we’ve met,” Adam grits out and backs right into the bureau, wood protesting noisily at being knocked against the stone wall. “Dude almost made me have an accident.”

“He was driving in the rain,” Castiel adds, voice flat, and Michael makes a noise suggesting he’s not surprised.

“He needs to see his mother,” Michael tells Castiel. “I can’t take him there.”

Castiel frowns in speculation.

“What have you told him?”

“He knows she’s passed.”

“And of you?”

“I told him.”

Castiel looks away then, exasperated.

“Of course you did. Michael.”

“Castiel, he’s lost memory of us all. She’s the only one who can explain it to him.”

Adam has no idea what they’re suggesting, but he hopes they continue not to notice him discreetly searching through the drawers and then creeping towards the door when he comes up empty of any makeshift weapon. He doesn’t want to have to defend himself against these guys; he hopes he doesn’t have to, but he does have to be prepared.

He entertains the idea they’re so engrossed in their own delusion they won’t notice him reaching the door, until Castiel and Michael cut a look at him at the same moment, twin frowns of what do you think you’re doing?

Adam clutches the doorknob behind him, ready to run.

Castiel sighs and throws Michael a look of warning.

“Stay here until we return. And don’t tell Dean.”

“Make sure you’re not followed,” Michael says.

Adam startles when Castiel reappears beside him, blue eyes narrowed and his fingertips a breath from Adam’s forehead.

Adam’s back presses to the cool wooden door.

“Please. Don’t.” He’s not sure what he’s begging against, but it relaxes the set of Castiel’s shoulders, the determined lines of his expression softening into sympathy.

“No harm will come to you, Adam,” Castiel promises and then glances down, speaking to Michael over his shoulder. “We’ll be back soon.”

Castiel’s fingers meet his skin and Adam stiffens at the wrench from inside his bones before the world rips away like he’s falling off the back of a truck at a hundred miles per hour. But he never hits the ground. Something cold and vast wraps around him like a whip, crackling thunder and light through everything he is before it tightens, fast, and charges into the stars.

If Adam was keen enough to be aware of all of this, he might have realised they were flying.

Even if it felt like falling.

It feels like it lasts for less than a second: one moment Castiel’s pushing fingers against his forehead and the next he’s flailing as if to regain his balance on a precarious ledge. Castiel’s hands steady his shoulders as his feet stumble in the tufts of crabgrass, finding even ground on flat asphalt.

That was so much worse than the truck.

Adam sucks in a breath, coughs it back out at the shock of cold and watches his breath mist on the air. They’re outside, it’s night time, and it smells like winter.

Adam looks at Castiel as the man pulls his hands back and gives him space to take in his surroundings.

They’re standing on a long street of stores, bright-lit trees glittering along the median strip. Adam recognises that bakery even with its lights out, and two stores down, the new laundromat. Well, the Laundromat that was new at the time he entered middle school--

He looks sharply at Castiel.

“Where the hell are we? This is… this is….”

At the end of the street, before the town hall stands the largest of the pine trees, blinking white, green and red streams under the hanging sign lit ‘Happy New Year 2003!’

Adam stares. He remembers this. He was here.

He looks back at Castiel, eyes wide.

“This is impossible.”

“This is Heaven,” Castiel explains gently, “Your mother’s Heaven, specifically.”

Adam pales.

“Am I dead?”

“Adam?”

He goes completely stiff at the sound of her voice, soft and unbelieving.

His boots are slippery on the ice when he turns, and then he can’t breathe, the weight of relief crushing the air from him.

It’s his mother.

It’s her, Kate, in that sky blue parka she wore every cold evening and morning she had to work the night shift until she retired it in the Christmas of ’04 because it snagged an unmendable tear on the vending machine of the hospital’s visitor lounge. Her light blonde hair peeks from the bottom of her thick, woven cap and she looks as young as he remembers, hardly a line in her face that’s currently written in surprise and concern.

“Adam?” she asks again, fingers knuckle-white at the folds of the parka she’s wrapped tightly around herself. She looks him over from head to toe. “It’s… it’s really you, isn’t it?”

Something crumbles in Adam’s chest and his throat tightens, eyes burning with tears.

“Mom—“

“Oh, honey.” She reaches for him and Adam covers the two steps it takes before he’s holding her tight and Adam breathes deep. Her light perfume is familiar, honeysuckle (or was it honeydew?), and that unmistakable something that was uniquely Mom. Adam sobs dry against her hair and lets her go when she pulls back, searching his face earnestly.

“Honey, what are you doing here?”

“I’m so glad you’re okay, they told me you were dead—”

Kate’s face shifts back to surprise. She blinks up at him and tucks the hair behind his ear with one mitted hand.

“… I am. You’re in Heaven.”

“Wha—“ Adam frowns, he doesn’t understand. “Mom, what’s going on? I don’t know how I got here.”

Kate follows his glance back at Castiel, but Castiel is gazing at the steady procession of local Windom towards the town hall in celebration of the coming New Year.

“He’s an angel, he brought you here. He’s done it once before. I just didn’t think I’d see you so soon.”

“An angel?”

She searches his face carefully, mitts still holding his face.

Castiel was an angel? An actual feather-dusted guardian halo angel? Could that mean that Michael had also been telling the truth?

Holy crap, had Adam just been macking an angel?

“Mom, I don’t know what’s going on,” he confesses, dangerously close to a sob again as he takes her hands in his. “I was studying for finals, then it’s like I rolled over and it was five years later, there were these guys who said they were my brothers-“

“The Winchesters?” Kate asks gently.

Adam nods.

“Sam and Dean, they’re your brothers. I’m sorry we didn’t know before I passed, but John… well, he had his reasons.”

“So, it’s true?”

His mother smiles reassuringly and squeezes his hands.

“There’s something different about you, honey. But I don’t think you’re dead. What are you doing here?”

Castiel chooses that moment to re-join the conversation. Kate looks at him, startled, when he steps in.

“Kate.”

“It’s good to see you again, Castiel,” she says, doing her usual routine of assessing a newcomer to the conversation. Most women took offence to it, Adam knew. Castiel didn’t seem to notice or care. “I hope the circumstances are better than last time.”

“Adam has lost memory of the intervening five years. I’m sure you can agree he doesn’t need to remember the worst of his hardships during that time, but he no longer recognises his family. He’s attempted to run from us no less than twice in one evening and risked his life both times.”

Kate looks at him, eyes wide and admonishing.

“Adam Milligan. Didn’t I teach you better self-preservation than that?”

Adam sighs and rolls his eyes.

“Sorry, Mom. Forgot my grappling hook.”

“Oh, you nerd.”

“Crone.”

Castiel blinks in bemusement when the two Milligans crack a smile and Kate nudges her son with a shoulder, before wrapping her arms around him again. Adam’s arm winds around her shoulders as he leans his cheek against her hair.

“I only found out today. I miss you so much already,” Adam murmurs.

“Well, I’m glad you haven’t forgotten me,” Kate teases, beaming up at him. “But I’m not your only family anymore, honey.”

“I know… Sam and Dean. Dean’s a jerk.”

“He cares. He’s a lot like you, you know.”

“He’s not! And you’re dead, how would you know?”

“I’ve been watching, smart mouth! Don’t speak to your mother that way.”

Adam makes a half-hearted noise of protest when her mitt gently butts his chin. He sulks for her benefit, but it curls into a smile at the end.

“And you have a grumpy old grandpa, Bobby – better than what we had, you can probably tell by now.”

“I’m supposed to think of him as an uncle,” Adam says.

Kate nods helpfully.

“Whatever keeps him young. Bobby is smart and kind, Adam. When your brothers are losing their heads, it’s probably safest to take shelter with Bobby, unless he’s the cause.”

Adam looks his mother over with a frown.

“You really been watching that much, woman?”

“When I can,” she says with a conspiratorial note. “Although I’m not supposed to, they say it stops us from accepting our death and moving on with the groundhog loop of the best and brightest, but – Ash hooked me up.”

“Who’s Ash?”

“He is a Godsend, I’ll tell you about that another time.”

Adam brightens.

“I can come back?”

“No,” Castiel intervenes this time, drawing Adam’s scowl. “We’ve already bent the rules to bring you here. It’s dangerous, for you and for her.”

“Why?” Adam asks.

“Your entire father’s bloodline is in witness protection. Our presence here draws attention the longer we stay and the living don’t belong in Heaven. It upsets the balance.”

Was the angel serious? Adam turns to his mom with wide eyes.

“Mom, why are you in witness protection? What the hell happened?”

Kate’s mouth shrugs in a sympathetic smile as though she’s had a lot of time to adjust to the fact there was a need for witness protection in Heaven.

“There was a war, honey, and these angels.…” Kate glances at Castiel over Adam’s shoulder and nods. “Most of them accept things are running differently than they used to. They’re even our friends, but some of them could still want to hurt us. Castiel’s doing us a favour.”

Kate’s expression becomes serious, it’s that same one she wore when she left him instructions to do his homework and don’t forget to clean his dishes, before she left him for the night to save lives and assist doctors that made her roll her eyes when they weren’t looking.

“Adam.” Her mitts frame his jaw and then settle on his shoulders. “You may not believe it now, but that stuffy angel is your family, too.”

Adam glances at said angel who’s reached to brush a film of snowflakes from one of the parked cars and rub it between his fingers.

“Yeah, I thought that might be the case. I think he and Dean have a thing.”

“Stay out of that.”

“Hey, if he’s a douche to me, I’m giving him hell,” Adam warns.

His mom steels him with a firm look.

“Don’t talk about hell. This family don’t joke about that – no, don’t ask, just trust me.”

Adam sighs and shrugs.

“Sure. Okay. Anything else? You going to give me a list of birthdays to remember?”

“Michael,” his mother says.

Adam’s entire body tenses and suddenly he’s acutely aware of what else his mother could have seen from up here. Ugh, it makes his skin crawl and he shudders at the thought.

“What about him?”

Kate searches his face with a slow smile that dissipates most of his worry, that familiar assurance she’d smooth with a hand through his hair, even when he grew taller than her, and seldom failed to prove true: mother knows best.

“Just… don’t be too hard on him, honey. You two have had a rough road and I think he’s trying to make it up to you. The whole family’s had a tough decade, so everyone’s going to have a few sharp edges. Be patient with each other.”

“You know who you’re talking to, right?”

Adam rolls his jaw, then rolls his eyes with a groan at the irresistible smile she directs at him, glowing, like she can see the best in him beaming through.

“I think you can manage it. You’ll see it’s worth it, in the end. You have good people around you.” Kate takes his chin and pouts a smile at him, “Don’t screw it up.”

He swats her hand away and engulfs her in a hug instead, cherishing her chuckle against his ear.

“I’m gonna miss you.”

“Would it help if I said I’ll always be watching over you?”

Adam grimaces and pulls back from the hug to regard her impish grin.

“Actually, Mom, it wouldn’t. That’s kind of creepy and I don’t think I could ever take a shower again.”

“The shower’s the least of your worries: I stopped watching when you got together with Michael and I thought I’d never rid the images of you two in that bar and—“

“Ah! Stop!” Adam winces, hands flying to cover his ears. He’d never have a hope for a sex life if he thought his Mom was looking over his shoulder, or had ever witnessed it in the past.

Kate gets her grin under control enough for Adam to trust she won’t further scar him when she pulls his hands away from his ears.

“Adam. Honey. As long as you’re happy and nobody’s getting hurt, I promise not to open that window.”

“Great. Thanks,” he manages, but he’s still wincing.

“Now you promise me something.”

“… Okay?”

“Look out for yourself. I want you to work to keep this family, it’s a good thing you’ve all got going, but… look out for yourself. Nobody else is going to do it for you. Remember?”

She’d told him that from a young age, when it was just the two of them and John would drop in on occasion, but at the end of the day…. Yeah. He remembers.

“Mom?” Adam presses, because he can’t help himself. “Why are there angels in our lives? How did I hook up with one?”

Kate smiles abruptly again, mittens curling over his ears.

“Because God commanded it.”

His eyes narrow at the suspicious way her words lift with question at the end.

“You just made that up, didn’t you? You expect me to believe that God wrote a commandment about my love life?”

“I said commanded not commandment, you stubborn kid. Just take the win and go, would you?”

Adam snorts a laugh and shakes his head, squeezing her hands in his.

“Heaven’s changed you, Mom.”

She beams at him and gestures to a young man with blonde hair walking ahead of them on the edge of the median strip, hands in his pockets.

“Because I get to see you every day.”

Adam startles, realising it’s him. Younger him from all those years ago, too proud to wear a jacket warm enough and annoyed he had to stay back with his Mom instead of join his friends’ new year’s party. But it turned into one of the best new year’s they ever spent together, staying up all night with all the wrong food, piles of blankets and so many stories, just him and his Mom.

Adam feels a brush against his arm and it’s Castiel beckoning him on.

“We need to leave, Adam.”

The loss cuts through him like cold panic, but his mother squeezes his hand again, smile unwavering when he looks back to her.

“You’ll be fine. I love you.”

He feels the tightness building in his throat again and crushes her close in their last hug. He holds on as long as he can before he thinks Castiel will come back for him and he wants the strength to pull away before that happens.

“Love you, Mom.”

She kisses his cheek and smiles, so wide and excited, when he steps back that he can’t help but feel it lift him a little, too. She’s smiling like she knows something he doesn’t and he’s calmed at the thought it’s something good, but it doesn’t lessen the ache when he finally manages to turn away and Castiel is there, waiting, solemn and silent.

He touches two fingers to Adam’s forehead and Adam lands back in the spare bedroom where it’s still night. His hand hits something solid and warm when he shoots an arm out for balance and looks around the room.

Castiel is gone. His mother is gone.

He believes it now.

He looks at Michael who just wraps fingers around the hand Adam’s pressed to his chest and it’s Michael’s expression that breaks him: that open care and sympathy because he knows Adam’s heart is breaking.

The sob chokes in his throat and Michael draws him in, letting Adam drop his head to Michael’s shoulder. He doesn’t know what he should do with his hands and eventually lets them hang, fists clenched at his sides as he cries, and Michael hugs him, one arm wrapped around his waist as the other rubs warm lines up and down his back.

Michael doesn’t say anything and Adam is grateful.

-*-


Dean quietly knocks on the spare bedroom door before dawn.

Michael rises from the bed where Adam is still curled on his side, sleeping, and Michael has been watching his dreams, sifting away the shadows. Michael doesn’t look at all surprised to see Dean’s face when he cracks the door open, conscious of the creaky hinges.

“Are you decent?” Dean asks. His face is drawn in the early morning, like he doesn’t want to be here and he’s weary at the thought of whatever’s brought him. “We need to talk. There’s something I have to tell you. About Adam.”

It’s good timing. Michael has a few questions of his own about the story Adam relayed and he’s confident he knows who supplied him with it.

Michael closes the door behind him and they take their discussion into the back grove where they have a smaller chance of shouting the house down. It turns out to be a fortunate thing that the closest neighbour lives half a mile away.

-*-


Adam’s hands left bloody smears on the door.

He shouted for Dean, fingers slippery on the doorknob that burned to the touch, as the entire room shook and crumbled behind him.

The light at his back intensified, descending upon the green room. Calling for Dean, Adam realised he couldn’t even hear himself, drowned out by the toneless voice vibrating through the door under his hand, the false ground beneath him, and it pressed the air from his chest.

When he finally turned to face Michael, all he saw was light: beautiful, visceral light bending across the universe, reforming with bands, waves, and tendrils from upon and within itself, each brighter than the last.

And he was here for his vessel.

Adam felt Michael’s surprise, then slow anger, because Adam was not Dean and Zachariah had failed again. Or had he?

Adam swallowed his own blood when an invisible force held him against the door. Michael’s formless light swept over him and Adam shut his eyes, terrified, at the push through his hair, the pressure against his temples that slid down and through the blood at his chin. When the angel finally spoke, it resonated through Adam’s flesh and bones as though it had come from within himself.

You’re not what I asked for.

Michael’s rage trembled through him, heady and righteous, and Adam’s hands curled with it, until it felt like his own.

I didn’t ask for you, either, Adam pushed back.

That pressure carded through his hair again, curling and pressing at the base of neck, the sensation jolting through him like a current. His entire body seized, held tight for a few long seconds as space expanded and contracted within him, around him, he lost sense of which way was up from down as heat fanned through him like blissful fever, buckling his knees.

You’ll do, Michael seemed to decide.

I’m not saying ‘yes’ to you, you son of a bitch.

There was a rumble of bemusement, another curious brush across Adam’s ear and it almost burned in the pass along his jaw.

You’ve had some bad luck, Adam. The voice ran through him in tremors and he shut his eyes as his head fell back against the door. Your mother’s murder. Eaten alive. Did anyone come for you? When you called and screamed for help, who came?

None of you, that’s for damn sure.

Adam tried to push back, but his limbs didn’t respond. He didn’t want to remember that night and he won’t talk about the way his gut twisted with misery and helpless rage hearing his mother’s screams as he was held down two rooms away. And then she walked in. She smiled, teeth tinted pink from blood, and pressed a kiss to his cheek. The kiss became teeth and they sank into his skin, and Adam screamed as she gnawed and tore until his skin ripped from his flesh. It’s not her, Adam realized, but too late.

He shuddered remembering how he was shredded under the slow push of their hands and the heat fanned through him again, relaxing the tension and anxiety almost against his will.

You’re supposed to be angels. You’re supposed to guide and protect –

Have you actually read the Bible, Adam?


The blood was suddenly gone from Adam’s lips and he straightened without feeling those tears in his gut, his chest, and his throat. But Michael was still an angel. Michael would still make him bleed.

If God wanted to save you, he would have. He would have asked us to protect your family and those monsters would have been smote before you were even born. But God is dead and he’s not giving the orders anymore.

Who is?

You will never need to fear with me, Adam. If you call, I will be there. I will destroy your enemies. I will protect you and those you love.


Adam involuntarily thought of his mother, but he didn’t want her on the angels’ radar after this double-cross.

I thought Heaven was about love and forgiveness.

Heaven is the home of devotion. We were created to praise, to love, and to war. We do these very well.

I’ll never—

You’ll never need to fear again.

… No.

I want to give you revenge.


Adam shook his head, ignoring the rush of anger at the angel’s words. He couldn’t deny that he wanted someone else to suffer for putting him through this, but he was just one guy. If this was God’s design – and it was the first time in his life that he’d been confronted by the fact there was an actual God – then he’d have more than words with that asshole.

I want you to have peace.

Adam opened his eyes, gazing up through the layers and layers of Michael’s blinding grace.

I’ll protect you. I’ll love you, Michael promises, but it still makes Adam shudder as though it were a threat. If you’ll let me.

… You want Dean.

I do. But I have you.


-*-


It’s barely dawn and Sam hasn’t really slept.

The fresh morning air is cool and damp with the previous night’s storm. His boots squeak on the stone pavers as he goes to the end of the front path where he should be safely out of earshot and hits the second speed dial on his cell phone.

It picks up on the first ring.

“If this isn’t a six-four Adonis with chocolate hair, I’m not buying,” a man answers, wearily.

Sam frowns at the faded signpost across the road pointing towards town.

“What? Chocolate?”

“Oh, it is you,” the man’s voice lightens with relief. “I haven’t heard from you in almost three hours. Don’t you humans sleep?”

Sam rolls his eyes to himself, running a hand through his hair.

“It’s not for lack of trying,” he chuckles and his voice catches, betraying how tired he really is. He’d come off a long stint from work with a collective six hours of sleep lasting him through most of the week and last night hadn’t helped settle him down. He was too worried about Adam and the people on the other end of this phone line.

The man’s voice turns sympathetic, quietening.

“I’m sorry, babe. How bad is it?”

“Pretty bad. But I just wanted to check in, it’s morning here anyway. How are you? Is everything all right?”

“We’re fine… aren’t we?” the man asks playfully and there’s a muffled noise of agreement Sam can overhear. They’re probably settling down to bed in their time zone and Sam thinks of it with longing. He hadn’t enjoyed a full night’s rest in his own bed in so long. He was just returning from his business trip when he’d received the news from Bobby. He knew Dean would have also heard and he was caught somewhere between angry and hurt that Dean hadn’t told him first. When Dean finally did contact him, it was to tell Sam to keep his distance.

For all that Dean had said about Sam ‘finding his own goddamn sunset’ and taking the time to figure out if he could really manage something domestic with his new company, Sam didn’t think Dean had meant for Sam to get lost and stay that way. Dean’s attitude, however, was getting harder to ignore and, honestly? It hurt.

Dean was happy to chat with Sam over the phone, always picked up when he called and responded to Sam’s texts, but when it came to seeing each other face-to-face, Dean withdrew.

So, Dean had wanted Sam to stay back again this time: Sam was not the best at following orders from his family. This was the first time he’d seen his brothers in almost two months and Dean was already arguing with everyone.

“Good. That’s great,” Sam says and doesn’t quite manage to keep the dejection from his voice.

There’s a pause on the other end of the line and then Sam hears a murmured I’ll be right back and the ambient noise he hadn’t notice until then of the television disappears.

“Sam, are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” he answers automatically and succeeds, at least a little, in lightening his voice. “It’s just been a long week.”

“It’s been a long year. You’ll tell me if there’s anything I can do, won’t you?”

“… Yeah,” Sam agrees reluctantly and already knows he’ll ask.

“What do you need, babe?”

Sam looks back at the sleeping cottage and admits it to himself.

“Help.”

-*-


Adam doesn’t feel rested when he wakes up, unable to recall what he’d dreamed, but he’s left with a wound tension in his chest suggesting it hadn’t been good.

“That was you in the rain.”

Michael’s head turns on the pillow to meet Adam’s gaze.

“Last night when I ran,” Adam says, “You pulled me out of the mud.”

“… I wasn’t thinking.”

Adam frowns, confused. Was it so hard just to say “you’re welcome”? Was Michael not supposed to be helping him or something?

“Well, thanks,” Adam sighs and looks back to the ceiling. There were no cracks in the paint here.

The pale sunlight makes Adam think it’s still early morning and it occurs to him that he hasn’t seen a single clock in this entire house except on his laptop. He has no idea what time they fell asleep last night, sitting at the bed’s edge with his head on Michael’s shoulder.

He tries not to think about why Michael had to hold him in the first place.

His throat tightens, anyway, at the unbidden thought of Mom.

“How are you feeling?” Michael asks, his fingers curling through Adam’s on the bedspread.

“Yeah,” Adam mutters, noncommittally.

He feels like his heart, lungs and gut have been scraped out with a blunt knife. He’s been better.

He’s still focusing on not thinking about his mother when he pulls his hand away and folds his hands on his stomach instead. His stomach, which hurts, and he realizes he can’t remember eating much – if any – of his dinner from the night before.

“I think I’m hungry.”

“I’ll bring you something to eat,” Michael says, after a beat.

Adam looks at the angel when he begins rising from the bed – and he’s still trying to wrap his head around that one. An angel. There was nothing sprouting from Michael’s back, no halo, no suggestion from the way he pushed himself up to sit that there were other parts to him that Adam couldn’t see.

Michael looked just like an ordinary guy.

A guy who wanted to bring Adam breakfast in bed.

“I’ll do it.” Adam shoves himself up on one elbow and swings a leg over the bed side.

Michael watches him carefully make his way around the bed. Adam steps faster, tucking his arms around his middle at the thought Michael might fall in step with him and try to wrap an arm around Adam’s shoulders, or rest a hand at his nape.

In the light of day, he sees the dark circles under his own eyes in the mirror and the unhealthy pallor that makes him look like a walking zombie. Without the secretive shroud of night, it’s harder to entertain the thought of Michael touching him, wanting to hold or kiss him.

Adam only has his own curiosity to blame for that.

He shoots Michael a brief, tight smile when the angel lingers at his heels and Adam all but wraps himself around the door before spilling into the cool air of the hallway to keep some distance between them.

Real smooth, he kids himself. No points for subtlety.

A quick glance over his shoulder confirms Michael’s probably thinking the same thing.

Great.

The kitchen is quiet, bright light spilling in from the windows that makes him initially wince – and why the hell weren’t there any curtains?

“Here,” Michael says, handing him a blanket spilled over one of the table chairs and Adam realizes, yes, his arms were cold.

Michael moves around the kitchen as Adam pulls the blanket around his shoulders, noting the long rows of an orchard out the kitchen windows. It was pretty freaking postcard perfect.

His mouth feels sandy. There are still plates, glasses, and cutlery on the table. The pot of tomato soup from the night before is almost empty.

Just as he’s wondering where his brothers have gotten to, the floorboards in the ceiling creak and Adam looks up. They’re in the study.

Michael offers him a steaming mug and Adam wraps his hands around it gratefully, body sighing at the rich, delicious scent of fresh, black coffee. It forms a nugget of warmth against his chest and he enjoys the aroma as it warms him.

“Thanks,” Adam says.

“Of course.” Michael leans back against the counter beside him and Adam remembers that Michael made a great personal space heater the night before.

His fingers tighten in the blanket and he clears his throat quietly.

“So, do you live here, too?” Adam asks. “I mean… with me?”

Michael nods, intently searching his face.

“Yes.”

Adam’s stomach has started churning and he can’t tell if it’s nerves or hunger. He breaks Michael’s gaze and looks at the mess of the dining table instead.

“Do angels eat?”

“We can. It’s unnecessary.”

Adam glances at him, then back into his mug. “Do you… do you want to have breakfast with me?”

“… Yes.”

He is so relieved that Michael doesn’t reach out to hug him, or pet a hand through his hair.

Adam clutches his coffee tighter and swallows past the dryness in his throat. This was already sort of awkward. He takes an experimental sip of coffee; it’s damn near perfect.

He wonders how many angels are named ‘Michael’.

“Let’s see if we’ve still got any of that bread,” he says, making his way to the fridge.

-*-


Breakfast is not completely awkward.

Adam tears off chunks of bread and accepts the slices of pear Michael cuts for him straight off the fruit.

Michael flips the small knife in his hand, studying the dissected fruit and Adam holds out the small roll of bread.

“You want some of this?”

Michael accepts without hesitation and eats the piece slowly.

“These pears are from the backyard,” he says. “Dean picked them yesterday.”

Adam sips his coffee.

“I don’t usually like pears, but these are okay.”

Michael cuts another piece, eating it from the blade.

“I’d like you to meet someone.”

Adam looks at him, momentarily forgetting the bread portion in his hand. He’d met so many people in the last day. How many more could there be?

“Who?” Adam asks.

“One of my brothers. She’s a healer.”

Adam may have just woken up, but there was something wrong with the pronouns in that sentence.

“Don’t you mean ‘sister’?”

Michael steals a sip from Adam’s mug. Adam stares at the drink as it’s set back in front of him.

“Raphael is resuming her duties as a healer. It’s been a long time since she held that office, but she’s the best there is. I’d like her to see you.”

Adam watches Michael set the pear core on one of the dishes from last night.

“Raphael?”

Michael nods, meeting his eye.

“And Michael?”

Michael frowns, his hand sliding across the table. Adam pulls his hands to his lap.

“What is it, Adam?”

“What’s with the names? Raphael and Michael?”

“Yes.”

“… Like the archangels?”

Michael nods.

“You’re the archangel Michael?” Adam swallows.

“I was the sword of Heaven,” Michael says.

Fuck. Adam slouches under the weight of the news. What the hell was the archangel Michael doing in his kitchen?

“’Was’?”

Michael gestures with the knife then holds it end-to-end between his hands. The silence lingers for a few long moments and Adam adjusts himself in his seat, unsure if there’s something he should or could say to ease the tension. He’s verging on an apology to retract the question when Michael releases a long breath, curling the knife under his folded hands.

“I can’t return to Heaven. I’m no longer their sword.”

It sounds like a sad, guilty secret. Adam speaks carefully, conscious of where he’s treading, that he’s almost definitely way in over his head.

“What happened?”

Michael glances at him, quickly looking away like he sees something difficult in Adam’s face.

“There was a prison.” Michael motions to Adam with the knife. “To escape, I had to give you my name. So you took it… and we broke free.”

Why the hell had they been in prison? And what had Adam ever done to deserve being in the same prison as something – someone – like Michael? Up until yesterday, Adam hadn’t even known angels really existed.

Fuck, what had Adam done?

“You mean… falsifying identities? Is that how I got the name ‘Remington’?” He asks instead, because he’s not sure he understands what Michael meant about his name. Did angels even have surnames?

Michael bows his head, shoulders tensing and releasing with a tight sigh.

“No, there’s another name and I can’t return to Heaven without it.”

Adam shakes his head; he still can’t understand what the problem is.

“I was just fine being Adam Milligan. I don’t know what you mean, but if this is something I can give back… I’ll do it. You can have it.”

A humorless smile flickers across Michael’s features.

“You can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t take it.” Michael’s voice is firm, jaw flexing, pushing the words through gritted teeth.

Adam wonders why he can’t, but Michael’s expression has closed. Adam is sorry he’s done this, he’s sorry that Michael looks like he might resent Adam for this.

What did they do? Did they deserve it? Were they safe now, in this orchard of wine country? Or were they in hiding?

There’s a heavy weight in Adam’s chest, sinking through that scraped, hollow feeling left behind with the loss of his mother. It’s agonizing.

“You saved my life,” Adam says.

“I saved both of us.” The way Michael says it makes it sound lesser, but Adam could be imagining that his voice is hushed with shame. Adam didn’t really know this guy yet, but he and Michael were here in this future sharing a life; he hopes they also shared trust.

“Thanks,” he says, “Thank you.”

Michael nods. He hears Adam, but he doesn’t say anything and the look in his face is morose.

“I’ll see Raphael. If she’s the best, I could probably learn a thing or two,” Adam says, giving a bracing smile when Michael looks at him.

The angel almost smiles in return.

“I’ll be back. Finish your breakfast.”

Michael stands, hand briefly squeezing Adam’s shoulder before he turns for the back door.

Adam considers the table in front of him and reaches for another pear from the bowl.

-*-


Castiel is standing in the shade of the pear trees when Michael walks down the orchard lane.

Michael stops, drawing up straight. He hadn’t called Castiel, but here he was, as though knowing the older angel had questions, or maybe burning accusations to level, because he and Adam were once again strangers to each other.

Michael had made an assumption that Castiel would know what to do. Michael had given only one instruction: let him keep my name.

Castiel should have known how to fill in the gaps. Michael knows now that it had been an unfair assumption.

“I’m sorry,” Castiel says, for his benefit, finally looking away from the fence line.

Maybe they were all still strangers, after all. They couldn’t take anything for granted.

“It’s not your fault,” Michael eventually says. “I appreciate what you did.”

“… I think you would do the same.”

Michael appreciates the credit, but it still surprises him.

“Are you all right?” he asks, and this time it’s Castiel who looks at him with that small frown, waiting for an explanation. “You’ve been here more these last few days than I’ve seen you in the last six months. How is Heaven?”

Castiel physically draws back at the question. He recovers quickly, but Michael still sees it, he still wants to turn Castiel’s shoulder so the angel will look him in the eye and explain what’s on his mind. Instead, he lets Castiel focus his thoughts on the bark of the tree he stands beneath.

“Heaven still stands. Our brothers and sisters are reforming; Heaven is healing.”

“That’s excellent news,” Michael says, but there’s something Castiel is not telling him. “Thank you for coming to tell me.”

Castiel’s neck twitches with an abortive motion like he means to look at him, but stops himself at the last moment. He’s apprehensive, he’s warring with something, and Michael wishes he would share it with him, but eventually Castiel nods and takes flight without a further word.

There is something Castiel wants to tell him. Michael can be patient.


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