blue_bells: BY <lj user="chosenfire28"> (Supernatural :: Somewhere to Begin - dar)
[personal profile] blue_bells
» Title: Somewhere to Begin - Part IV (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


Adam thought Raphael was supposed to be a woman.

The blond angel who appears in his kitchen dressed as though he’s on his way to a bar is most definitely not a woman.

Adam sits back in his seat as the angel’s blue eyes settle on him, face lighting up with a delighted smirk.

“Ah. Don’t you look harassed?” The light, British accent rolls off the man’s tongue with surprising ease and Adam hadn’t even considered that angels could be multicultural.

His hand moves to his bed hair self-consciously.

“Are you Raphael?” he asks dubiously, taking in the angel’s black, polished shoes, chrome trousers and the chest-hugging black tee under the sports jacket.

This guy looked like he was on his way to some place fun and he shakes his head in bemusement.

“Are you daft? I’m the better half, though she’s loathe to admit it and don’t tell her I said that or she’ll bar me at the gates and I’m lobbying for angels to imbibe without guilt or retribution at our next GM, so it’s important I can get back in.”

The angel says all of this drifting through Adam’s kitchen, surveying everything on the walls, opening cupboards, the fridge, and humming with delight when he finds the cache of beer.

Adam stares at his back, feeling no more informed about who this angel was, except that he was apparently involved with the angel who was supposed to be here.

“I’m Adam,” he begins, and the angel looks back over his shoulder with an indulgent, patronizing smile.

“Yes, I know who you are, Sunflower.”

Adam’s eyes narrow at the nickname.

Adam. Who are you?”

The angel joins him at the table, setting down his bottle and straightening with a superior air.

“I’m your doctor.”

“Really?” Adam notes the mocking way the angel says it; he wasn’t even dressed like a doctor and he wasn’t doing a good job of selling the role.

“I am today.” The angel spreads his arms magnanimously with a brilliant smile and he’s so damn slick Adam can’t help shaking his head. It was hard to believe this guy was for real and Adam couldn’t decide whether to like or be annoyed by him. Adam wanted to laugh and shove him at the same time.

“What’s your name?” Adam asks.

“Balthazar and that’s not open to abbreviation. This is yours.” The angel sets the beer bottle in front of him and slides into the nearest seat.

Adam looks from the bottle to the angel.

“It’s not even noon.”

Balthazar blinks at him for a moment before apparently deciding to agree with him.

“No, it isn’t. What am I thinking – what a terrible physician.” The bottle vanishes in a moment and Balthazar folds his hands on the table, leaning in with such abrupt seriousness in his expression as he searches Adam’s face. “So, Adam. Tell me how you’re feeling.”

“What kind of doctor are you supposed to be?”

“Suspicious! Good to see you haven’t lost that caution. To answer your question, I’m every kind of doctor except the one who arrives with a piece of paper. Open up and say ‘ah’.”

Balthazar gently takes his jaw and nods expectantly when Adam just stares at him, bewildered. He eventually opens his mouth and Balthazar quickly glances inside without a thoughtful frown.

“Okay, you will need this.” The beer rematerializes in front of Adam as Balthazar takes the pear and knife, cutting himself a slice.

Adam watches him, wary.

“Is it bad?”

“Honestly, yes. Didn’t anybody ever teach you to brush before entertaining company in the morning, Sunny?” Balthazar takes a bite of the pear and makes an appreciative noise.

This angel was nine kinds of charming. Adam swallows a mouthful of beer, pulling a face at the bitter taste around the lingering flavor of bread and fruit so early in the morning. Although it wasn’t the first time he’d had beer for breakfast, it had been a while.

“I’m something of an expert in souls, so I am qualified to speak on this matter,” Balthazar continues between bites, how polite of him.

Adam feels himself frown, wiping his palm dry of the beer’s condensation on his jeans.

“Souls? I fell off the roof and lost the last five years of my memory. Why are you talking about souls?”

Balthazar barely pauses, but Adam sees that moment of realization when the knife stops in the pear before Balthazar continues cutting.

“Because you’re a delicate flower and I’ve been curious to study the effects when the mind forgets itself. Does the soul forget as well?”

Huh. That sounded like a load of bull; an interesting load, though.

Adam watches the angel dissect the pear and place the remaining slices onto Adam’s plate when it’s clear Balthazar’s disinterested in eating anymore. Adam doesn’t touch them.

“Are you serious?”

“Unfortunately: you are so very delicate.”

Adam snorts a laugh and reminds himself it was rude to kick people you’d just met in the shins.

“You study souls?”

Balthazar spreads his hands with a smile.

“Aren’t we all scholars?”

“They said I’m an intern in this town. I was hoping Raphael could jog my memory of what I’d forgotten. I don’t think this is going to help me.” Adam motions between Balthazar and himself.

“Well, Sunny, I can only help you if you want to be helped. But I don’t jog.”

“… What do you need to do?”

Balthazar points at Adam’s chest.

“I’ll need to take a look.”

Adam looks him over, glances at the angel’s empty hands.

“I don’t see your stethoscope.”

Balthazar smiles in that indulgent way, but this time it doesn’t grate on Adam as badly.

“I won’t need one of those to see into your soul.”

Adam’s not sure about that proposal.

“Is that… safe?”

“Trust me. I’ve been doing this since before your grandparents’ ancestor’s first ape, when the first souls were being conceived; it’s perfectly straightforward.”

A charge goes through the air, like the snap of electricity and Adam swallows at the tall, severe-looking woman who’s suddenly standing in the back entrance to the kitchen.

Adam’s going to guess that’s Raphael.

“Balthazar,” she growls.

The blond angel turns in his seat to greet the woman with a fond smile.

“Darling. How nice of you to join us. I knew you’d be running late, so I’ve been speaking to young Sunny here—“

“Adam,” said man insists again.

“You were not cleared for this,” Raphael says, voice low and carefully reined, but from the look in her dark eyes, Adam half-expects Balthazar’s head to be torn from his shoulders.

“I took the initiative,” Balthazar says, turning back to Adam with a smile suggesting he fully intended to ignore the withering glare narrowed at the back of his head.

“Leave us,” Raphael says.

Adam looks at Balthazar in alarm. The guy may have been aggravating in his own way, but he wasn’t nearly as terrifying as this woman and Adam really didn’t want to be left alone with her.

Unfortunately for him, Balthazar defers, rising from his seat with a sigh as Raphael joins them at the table and narrows that dark, judgmental look at Adam instead.

This would be a great moment for an intervention, Adam thinks, calling up the image of his brothers, Bobby, Michael – anyone.

Balthazar stops at Raphael’s side, close enough to murmur against the ebony hair falling to her shoulders, and Adam notices that she stiffens, lines of her face sharpening as though every muscle has pulled tight in restraint.

“I’ll save you a drink,” he says, hand barely settling on her arm before her head snaps around to him.

“Leave!”

Adam jumps at the crack of thunder outside the window, the hum of the fridge whines down for a moment as the skies dim, but then Balthazar is pulling his hands back, raising an eyebrow with a look of exasperation and he nods at Adam.

“Always good to see you, Sunny. Don’t forget to ask your questions.”

Raphael looks at Adam sharply.

“What questions?”

Adam shakes his head quickly.

“Nothing.”

“Be nice, darling,” Balthazar reminds the other angel.

“Leave us now.”

Although Adam really doesn’t want to be left alone with her, he doesn’t want to see an angel death match go down in his kitchen either.

“Maybe you should go,” Adam suggests and Balthazar holds his hands up in surrender.

“All right, all right, I know when to make my exit.”

Balthazar disappears without fanfare or a whisper of sound and just as Raphael turns the complete, terrifying span of her attention on Adam, Sam sticks his head around the corner of the staircase and Michael steps through the back door, looking concerned.

Adam doesn’t think he’s ever been more relieved in his life.

“What’s – oh.” Sam sees Raphael and answers his own question.

This time when Michael comes around the table, Adam’s grateful for the hand that settles on his shoulder and Michael’s thumb brushes across the hair at his nape. Adam has a feeling that Raphael is the sort of doctor horror stories were made of.

-*-


Half an hour later, Adam’s walking into town with Sam and Raphael and it’s not half as bad as he expects.

Well, Adam can only speak for himself, but there’s a strange tension in the air between Sam and Raphael that has nothing to do with the lingering charge from yesterday’s storm.

“So,” Adam breathes out steadily and cracks a smile between them.

Raphael’s expression is cold and suspiciously narrowed at Sam as they walk, her stride ramrod straight and professional by Adam’s side. He shrinks back when she turns those large, dark eyes on him, but he manages not to lose his smile.

“Uni Ville, huh?” Adam’s voice cracks, just a little. “It was awesome of you to come all the way and join us out here, Raphael. I mean, I personally really appreciate it – I didn’t know angels were also trained in human medicine.”

Not that Raphael had used any said training.

“We don’t need your methods,” Raphael interrupts, flatly, and looks him over with thinly veiled contempt. Was that a personal comment or an attitude to ‘human methods’ in general? Funny how her true side seemed to be coming out now that Michael was out of the room. “I was the highest of our healers.”

Adam makes a polite sound of interest and notes her use of the past tense.

If she was, implying she no longer is, then why was she the choice to look Adam over?

Raphael didn’t look like a doctor, or even a traditional healer… and Adam has to admit to himself, he was expecting some sort of hippie or casually-dressed, relaxed individual. Not this woman who marched with her chin in the air and dressed like a corporate power player, like someone who stepped out of the office and drove their supercar down from the big city to this unincorporated town to attend to Adam.

She didn’t look excited about it either, about Adam, or this place.

Adam saw the way she deferred to Michael, tight-lipped, but respectful, although if he was honest, disdain still thinned her mouth as she had taken Michael’s order and asked Adam to let her examine him, her hands trailing with the lightest touch. She hadn’t even asked him to lift his shirt.

Raphael had pressed her hand to his forehead and laid her other palm to his heart, expression focused in concentration, and if Adam hadn’t known she was an angel, he would have thought she was just taking his temperature (and he’d have to tell her that she was doing it wrong). Then again, knowing Raphael was an angel didn’t clear his confusion: he hadn’t felt anything, nothing glowed or stung and, at the end of it, when Raphael pulled her hands back and declared he was ‘fine’, Adam still had no idea if she had done anything.

Michael hadn’t looked very impressed with that response, either, and drew her aside for a murmured discussion at the end of the hall.

Michael and Raphael. Adam thought Raphael was a man’s name.

His brothers had come downstairs at that point and Sam had announced they were going to walk into town. Adam felt fine and he was dying to get out of the house and see the rest of this place.

Bobby had gestured at Michael with his mug of coffee, like that meant something, until Michael declared he had paperwork he had to complete in the study.

“I’ll look after him,” Sam had promised, nodding at Adam, and Raphael smiled in amusement.

“And who will look after you?”

Adam led the way out the door before Sam could reply. He didn’t get the impression that Raphael liked any of them very much.

Five minutes later, Sam has his hands in his pockets and walks at Adam’s other side, not even attempting to support Adam’s efforts at small talk. When Adam glances his way, Sam gives him a bright, civil smile that says everything from yeah, it is a good morning to you’re doing a great job chatting up that angel, but just keeps walking. Adam sees him check his phone before sliding it back in the pocket of his jeans and wrestles the fleeting urge to grab it from him, forcing him to join the conversation.

“Thanks for seeing me,” Adam tries again as they crest the hill on the grass, soft soil sinking beneath their boots.

Raphael doesn’t even look at him.

“I mean, it means a lot to me – having all of you guys here. Showing up so quickly.”

“Michael requested it. He is still my General.”

Adam thinks of his conversation that morning with Michael over breakfast. Somehow, he just wasn’t seeing the guy who cut him fruit armoured in silver and with a spear at the devil’s throat.

“So… you’re the Raphael?”

Raphael arches a sharp eyebrow and stares at him with one of those looks that bored into him, I cannot fathom the depths of your stupidity without breaking her stride.

“Do you know of another?”

Adam just shakes his head.

“No two angels are named the same. Our names are our essence, the seal of our grace, but these are only the names you humans can perceive. An angel’s true name is something your feeble tongues couldn’t possibly wrap around, or withstand to hear. Our glory would shatter you.”

True names....?

“Not Adam,” Sam speaks up suddenly and Adam looks at him in surprise. “He’s one of the few who can hear and see your true forms.”

True forms, huh? He thinks of large white wings and polished armour, wondering how human angels really looked beneath their skin.

Raphael looks at Adam with interested speculation.

“Is that so?”

“Lucky me?” Adam shrugs, but Raphael’s words are making him wrack his brain for something else Michael said at breakfast. He’d given Adam his name?

“Perhaps we should be sure,” Raphael says, dark and curious.

Adam does not like the way she looks at him then, like a scientist peering through a microscope with abstract curiosity. That kind of detachment was dangerous for the subject under the scope.

Adam breaks Raphael’s gaze and nervously sidles closer to his brother.

“Maybe you want to ask Michael? I could call him right now,” Sam offers, holding up his phone.

It does the trick. Raphael draws back, expression sour, and Adam throws his brother a look of relief.

Sam raises his eyebrows and sighs with a shrug that tells Adam this sort of thing happened all the time. Raphael was unnerving and Adam found himself hoping her normal workplace and residence were far, far away.

He has questions about Michael, questions that would probably be best asked of Raphael, but she was scary and Adam doesn’t want to ask his brother while she’s still there.

He sticks close to Sam.

“So, how well do you know this town?” Adam asks.

Sam looks ahead, nodding slowly.

“Well enough to keep us from getting lost.”

“Your town is one street. Becoming lost would be difficult,” Raphael says, deadpanned.

Sure enough, from what Adam can see, there’s a long line of buildings backed out onto the nature reserves they’re climbing. White or red and bricked in most places, there are a few newer and taller structures peaking above the rest, but as Raphael said, all in single file.

“It branches off in a few places,” Sam counters.

Raphael stares at him.

“One street, Samuel.”

“It’s ‘Sam’.”

Adam sighs and thanks the powers above when they finally arrive at the junction with the main street.

Adam looks left. He looks right.

That was one long street.

“Why don’t you show me where I work?” Adam asks his brother, noticing the dark looks passing between him and the angel.

“Sure.”

“As my escort is no longer required here, I’ll be leaving,” Raphael says, raising her chin and she’s gone before Adam can even think of a polite goodbye.

“She’s fast,” he says.

“If she was going to blink out of here like that, she should have done it back down the road,” Sam says and leans in, with a conspiratorial whisper. “Nobody here knows about angels, so we try to teach them how to blend in. Walking through doors--”

“Not disappearing in the middle of the street,” Adam adds, “I think she needs a follow-up program.”

“Raphael’s difficult. I can’t tell if she does it on purpose, or she doesn’t care.”

“I think she hates me.”

“It’s not just you; Raphael hates everyone.” Sam pauses as they walk past a shoe store boasting its establishment since 1901. “Probably some of us more than others.”

“What’s her problem with Michael?”

“Oh. That’s….”

Adam rolls his eyes; he can guess the answer by now.

“Complicated?”

Sam smiles at him apologetically, but then he surprises Adam by continuing.

“They’re brothers.”

Adam stares at him, confused. Unless those twins were artificial and there was more going on beneath those office pants than Adam could see, ‘brothers’ might not have been the right word.

Thankfully, Sam seems to understand why Adam’s stumped before he’s even reached the punch line.

“Brothers, sisters. They don’t have genders like we do – they’re not even really siblings in the way we are. But we first met Raphael when she was in a man’s vessel… anyway, she had to find a new one.”

Adam takes a moment to consider what the hell Sam was talking about and eventually files it away under things too strange and confusing to think about right now.

“… So, what’s her problem with Michael?”

Sam sighs.

“From what I know, they had to run everything upstairs for a long time: just the two of them. They were close.”

“Were?” Adam frowns.

“They had a falling out. It was an accident at first – the wrong information fed to the wrong people at the wrong time and Raphael thought Michael had turned on him. Her. She’s not the sort of person who waits for an explanation.”

Adam can understand, though he had just met the woman, she smacked of impatient entitlement and unwavering righteousness.

“But they’re still talking, that’s good,” he says.

“Yeah, it’s something. Actually, that’s the most I’ve heard her say in a single conversation, so good job. Usually she just turns up, threatens us, and starts kicking people around.”

“Dude! She’s an angel, how does she get away with that?”

Sam shrugs with regret.

“Angels aren’t what most people think they are. I think, for a long time, Michael just let her do what she wanted as long as she followed orders. He didn’t care how she got the job done.”

Adam wants to know more about exactly what Raphael did, but he’s hanging onto that comment about Michael, because....

“Michael sounds like a douche.”

Sam laughs, abruptly.

“Oh, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg, Adam. He was worse.”

Sam’s last words are bitter and quiet and Adam feels empathy, trying to imagine what it must have been like when Adam brought home someone his brothers clearly hadn’t been that excited about.

“I know I don’t know him that well, but… he’s been really nice to me.” Adam shakes his head with a confused shrug. “Is that an act? Is he unbalanced?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not the case,” Sam says, “He does care about you. He changed.”

“… Because of me?”

“Well, it definitely wasn’t me. We were trying to keep him the hell away from you, but you were so convinced you could get through to him.”

Adam sighs. It didn’t sound like the ideal or even healthiest situation, but it’s good to know it had worked. He gestures widely at a loss.

“Do you remember what I did? How did I tangle with him, anyway? Do angels just hang around at the college libraries looking for company?”

Sam thinks about it for a long moment, but Adam wonders if it really takes him so long to remember, or was Sam just being delicate with his words?

“I guess you could say… he knew the family. You guys didn’t meet under great circumstances. I don’t know what was going through your head: one day you were on our side, then you had doubts, and eventually you’d become his advocate. You were spending a lot of time together, so it was probably inevitable.”

Adam blinks at the underwhelming account.

“Huh. Must have been meant to be.”

He wrings it out with sarcasm, but he misses Sam’s involuntary wince, covered up with a tight smile by the time he glances up at his giant brother’s face.

They walk on.

-*-


They find the clinic near the centre of the long street: it’s one of the newer buildings, a single storey block with white walls, a ramp leading up the side for the handi-capable and reasonable opening hours posted under the large sign of ‘general surgery’.

“I am so screwed.” Adam shakes his head miserably.

Sam looks at him, his hands in his pockets.

“We’ll figure something out, Adam.”

“But I can’t remember anything, man, anything. I don’t remember the first day I sat in class at med school, or even the first time I held a scalpel. I wouldn’t know where to find my stethoscope – it’s gotta be somewhere at the house, but if I had to treat anyone, I’d be guessing!”

Sam glances around them because they aren’t the only ones on the street. A young couple pushing a stroller even wave their way, smiling brightly, and Sam waves back before leaning in to mutter in his brother’s ear.

“I know you’re freaking out right now, but you’ve got to calm down. Take a few deep breaths; these people look up to you and you’re still you. Word spreads fast in small towns. Give us a chance to figure this out, please, Adam.”

Adam stares at the window with its white blinds where he can see the waiting room and he shakes his head again.

“I don’t know where to start.”

“Adam.”

Adam looks up into his brother’s determined expression.

“Stop freaking out,” Sam says, slowly. “Give us a chance. We’ve got your back.”

Adam searches his brother’s face and Sam doesn’t falter. It’s hard not to be steadied by that: if Sam wasn’t flinching, he had reason to believe they could do something about Adam’s situation and Adam wants to believe it, too. After two long seconds, Adam finds himself nodding.

“Thanks, Sam.”

Sam squeezes his shoulder and nods at one of the stores down the street.

“Come on, why don’t we pick something up for dinner while we’re here?”

“Why not?” Adam shrugs, happy to let somebody else with a clue lead the way.

This really sucked.

He looks back at the clinic and feels intensely grateful it was a Saturday. He doesn’t know who covered for him yesterday, or how they let him get away with being the only doctor in town, but it seemed like he had a few days to come up with a strategy before facing the music.

Sam leads them into a gourmet deli.

It’s not a large store, but it looks bigger on the inside. There are shelves on both sides with jars and bottles of olive oils, dried meats, jams, and chutneys, more things than Adam can catalog before his attention is drawn back to the front of the glass display lined with different types of meats, at least five types of cheeses in varying towers and he almost walks into the lines of sausages hanging from the ceiling.

There’s a cool, spicy aroma in the store’s air and Adam blinks at the sheer amount of food packed into every available space.

“Wow. Got meat?” he muses, looking over the display before glancing at his brother who’s doing the same. “You guys aren’t vegetarian, are you?”

Sam actually laughs before shaking his head.

“No way, never had the luxury, man.”

Adam nods, grateful that their job’s been made that much easier, as he goes back to inspect the displays.

“But your boyfriend’s a vegan,” Sam says and Adam can hear the smile in his voice.

Adam’s entire body goes stiff and he glares at the cheese tower behind the glass. Great. Of course Michael was a vegan. So much for an easy job of gathering….

Sam snickers and gestures at the display.

“He doesn’t mind us eating in front of him, so get whatever you like. I think he only eats to blend in, angels don’t need to eat like we do. Castiel likes beef burgers, but that’s something residual from his vessel Jimmy.”

Adam looks at him.

“Vessel?”

Sam brakes like he’s come to an epiphany and steps up to the glass with sudden interest.

“… Yeah. Hey, what about this smoked… what is, this, pepperoni?”

It’s at that moment the man serving the counter turns around from the chopping block and regards them with a wide smile. He’s not overly tall, his brown hair is combed back, but he has strange, gold eyes that oddly remind Adam of Michael when he looks between his two new customers.

“Spanish chorizo! Using the recipe from the court of the royal Spanish chef herself, you can use it in pastas, on a platter with cheese, but it has plenty of character, so it’s not for the faint-hearted,” the man tells them enthusiastically and spreads his arms wide as though to suggest they are the faint-hearted.

Adam’s glad he’s not the only one staring.

“Um…” He blinks, stunned.

He hears Sam sigh.

“Really, Gabriel? Didn’t you make us eat that last week?”

Adam glances between Sam’s exasperated look and the other man – Gabriel’s – broad grin that makes Adam think he’s struggling not to laugh.

“Oh, you two know each other.” Adam realizes Sam must come to town more often than he let on.

Sam rolls his eyes and looks at his brother.

“He doesn’t actually work here.”

“What?” Did Adam hear him right?

Gabriel shrugs and pats down his borrowed store apron.

“Hey, you called and I came,” he says.

“Get out of there.” Sam gestures with his head to indicate their side of the counter.

Gabriel throws the apron to the side with a flourish and raises the counter bench at the end, sweeping through as though he were a matador expecting Sam to rear back. Sam treats him with that same long-suffering, but suspiciously affectionate, raised eyebrow look and Gabriel finally drops the stance.

“What? Aren’t you happy to see me?” Gabriel rolls his eyes.

Sam snickers softly and, to Adam’s surprise, reaches over to draw the man in, holding his face.

“No, I am,” Sam says and leans down to kiss him.

“Wow, okay,” Adam blurts, looking anywhere but the two of them when Gabriel hums laughter and pulls Sam closer with hands in his jacket.

Adam looks between the shelves, the glass cabinet, and the door in the space of a moment and makes the split-second decision.

“I’m gonna give you the room.”

Sam chooses to resurface then.

“Oh, Adam, wait – I want you to meet Gabriel!”

Adam manages an awkward smile that feels like more of a grimace and nods at the guy.

“Hi.” He half-heartedly waves at Gabriel with the hand still in his jacket pocket.

Gabriel detaches from Sam and covers the two steps between them, holding out his hand.

“Adam—“

Adam’s eyes go wide when Gabriel abruptly pulls him into a tight hug, clapping him on the back. He’s grinning, smug and mischievous, when he draws back and his hands stay on Adam’s shoulders.

“—You don’t know this yet, but I’m your best friend. We’re going to get along just fine.”

Adam looks suspiciously from Gabriel to his brother, but Sam just shrugs with a helpless smile. Adam has a feeling he’s on his own.

“Sure.”

Gabriel chuckles, shaking his shoulder with surprising strength.

“Do you like wine, Adam?”

-*-


Bobby’s on hold to one of his contacts in academic places when he coughs wetly, the motion catching in his throat.

Michael looks up from his hunch over the papers Dean’s had him studying for the last hour and frowns at Bobby.

“You should take something,” the angel says.

“Got my black label, a glass every night,” Bobby says. “Sometimes more.”

Michael’s expression twitches with the barest hint of annoyance, but he focuses on the notes scattered on the corner desk before them.

On the double computer monitors, Sam had set up some sort of system scan to search for theories and accounts of similar cases that could help them. Michael doesn’t think he’ll find anything that will be relevant to their case that way; there weren’t many incidences of escaping the cage with human vessels that had been documented in human record.

“I will do something about that, if you won’t.” Michael significantly eyes Bobby’s chest and the flu stirring in him.

“Sure thing, Doc.”

“Bobby,” Michael warns.

“Mikey.”

“Robert.”

“Feathercake.”


“Ladies.” Dean clears his throat, looking up from the papers in his lap. He’s reclining in the office chair, boots kicked up on the desk and Michael forgets to push them off. “Can we please leave the nursing to Doctor Sexy?”

“Dean, that show ended two years ago, you know,” Bobby says, earning a sharp look from the younger man.

“Do I need to let Mike hold you down and feed you something colourful from Adam’s med-kit?”

“You’re a traitor and a soap junkie, kid.”

“Guilty for giving a damn.” Dean surrenders with his hands.

Michael smiles to himself, leaving the decision to Bobby for now and returning to the newspapers.

But this is pointless.

He doesn’t notice the message that flashes across the monitors of Sam’s search, blinking red with success, before it’s overwritten by the brute force of the search effort and consumed once more by the green bar of progress.

What Michael needs is to speak with an angel.

-*-


It turns out that Adam is well known in town, which comes with its own benefits of local discounts in almost every store. To Gabriel’s delight and Adam’s vocal protests, Mister Palmer, the local vineyard owner doesn’t let them leave his storefront until they’re carrying out two free bottles of his latest harvest and some kind of oil derived from grapes that could go with anything from bread to ice cream.

Gabriel takes two, despite Adam’s discomfort at Mister Palmer’s showers of thanks for how well Adam treated his wife earlier that week in his clinic.

Although Adam was eager to see the town, it comes with many faces and names Adam will never remember, but they all, unfortunately, know him and call out to him across the street with warm smiles, waves, and thanks that build the pressure on Adam’s shoulder until he’s fallen into step behind Sam hoping his taller brother will obscure him from view. No luck there, it seems, because Sam is just as recognizable for the townsfolk, even though Sam claims he hasn’t visited in months.

Adam can’t retreat back to the cottage soon enough.

When they finally make their way back, it’s early afternoon and he doesn’t know how the three of them have filled their arms with paper bags with more food, drink, and rope (how? Why? Adam doesn’t even know) than they could use in a week.

Adam can’t ever remember seeing this much food in his house growing up, even at Christmas gatherings with his four extended relatives the one time they were all in town.

Gabriel shrugs as Adam surveys their hoard on the kitchen table. The shock must show on his face.

“Country towns, what’re you gonna do?” Gabriel shrugs, with a pleased smirk.

What the hell were they going to do with all this food?

-*-


It turns out that Gabriel considered himself a culinary connoisseur.

He gives Adam a large knife, sets Sam to peeling potatoes, and stands over the table working together some complicated herbal concoction in which Adam only recognizes rosemary and thyme among the seven or so plants that get thrown in.

Sam complains under his breath that Gabriel has an easier way to reach their end. Adam doesn’t really understand.

“I never want to see another spud in my life,” Sam sighs, throwing it in the half-filled sink with water beside Adam’s post with the chopping board. “How many people are you expecting?”

Adam glances back at Gabriel, knife poised over his mountain of carrots.

“We’re having guests? Are Raphael and Balthazar coming back?”

Gabriel laughs abruptly, measuring what looks like a bunch of sage in his hands.

“Unlikely. Raphael still isn’t talking to me.”

“Oh.” Adam looks at Sam for clues, but his brother is too busy attacking a particularly large potato in hand with determination. Adam’s curious, he’s wary, he’s not sure he would know what to do with every person’s long and heavy history if they laid it out for him. He has a feeling he woke up in the middle of their crossroads and he was barely dodging the stampede of everyone trying to find their way around him.

“What about Balthazar?” Adam asks. “He won’t come without Raphael?”

Gabriel grinds his experiment in the large mortar and pestle he found in Adam’s cupboard.

“He works for Raphael. I wouldn’t bet that she'll let him out of the office, there’s always more work to do.” Gabriel stops, looking up with a thoughtful expression. “He might play hooky if Cas invited him, though.”

“Cas is coming?” Adam asks, making a face when Sam’s potato lands in the sink with a large enough splash to catch him on the chin.

“We don’t do Sunday dinner, we’re scattered in too many directions. Too many ways and places to return by Monday,” Gabriel says.

“So, family tries to get together on Saturdays?” Adam asks.

“I don’t think we’ve sat down to eat together since….” Sam looks back over his shoulder to Gabriel with a thoughtful expression and Gabriel shrugs a shoulder.

“Since we moved out with you.”

Sam’s expression softens with understanding and there’s something sad Adam finds about the way his brother looks down at the vegetable and peeler in his hands. He forgets to ask about Gabriel’s use of the ‘we’ reference and wonders instead why Sam’s moving out with Gabriel had been such a sore spot.

The grind of mortar and pestle starts up again and Sam sighs, letting the moment pass.

“Okay, do you want me to finish this whole bag?” Sam asks the angel directing them. “You guys don’t eat, why are we cooking this much?”

Gabriel’s smirk lifts the mood almost immediately, easy and placid.

“Because you love me.”

Adam snickers when Sam’s shoulders sag and he turns back to his work obediently. He was so whipped.

“That’s not a reason,” Adam chuckles under his breath.

“It’s the only one that matters,” Gabriel says, suddenly at his shoulder, and Adam jumps.

Gabriel just smiles at him and rubs Sam’s shoulder, placing a kiss there.

“That’s enough, babe. You can stop.”

The peeler gets thrown in the water with the rest of the potatoes and Sam mutters some thanks to the baby Jesus. He starts washing his hands, it’s late afternoon and they’ve been at this for some hours now. Gabriel was a slave driver, but he seemed adamant on using every scrap of food from the afternoon’s take, though Adam has no idea if they had any hope of finishing it.

“You too, kid,” Gabriel tells Adam, slapping him on the back, “I’ll take it from here.”

“Thanks,” Adam sighs in relief and takes the towel Sam hands him when he’s finished washing up.

“You’re probably feeling tired,” Gabriel says, looking him over, and Adam considers it.

“I am, actually.” He’s surprised he hadn’t realized it until now when he stopped and saw the way the sun was coming in the window. It was later in the afternoon than he thought.

“Your room’s upstairs. I can wake you when we’re done, if you want to put your head down,” Sam offers. “It’ll be a few hours.”

Something occurs to Adam.

“I haven’t seen the other guys all afternoon. What are they doing?”

“Paperwork,” Sam says.

“Taxes,” Gabriel supplies at the same time.

They glance at each other, the corner of Gabriel’s mouth lifting in one of his impish grins and Adam decides to leave it.

“I’m going upstairs.”

“Thanks for your help,” Sam says when Adam passes him and waves it off, it was no problem. Many hands make light work and all of that. He’d spent the last hour chopping vegetables. Was it only an hour? And why was he so tired?

He stares at the door to the study when he climbs the last step of the staircase. He considers knocking, going in to see how they were all handling their tax paperwork, and if that’s in fact what had kept them out of the kitchen all afternoon. He wonders if they’re actually crowded around that corner desk playing poker at odd angles and drinking whiskey, but the heavy weight in his bones wins and he decides that he’s not curious enough.

The door to the bedroom whines on its hinges when he goes in. The bed is made, the curtains open; the room is empty.

Then he spots the laptop on the desk.

He shuts the bedroom door as quietly as he can behind him.

-*-


“So, if you’re here,” Sam begins, looking carefully at the angel grinding herbs at the table, “Who’s with him?”

The grind of stone on stone stops.

“We’re taking it in shifts. Raphael’s watching him when I’m not around.”

Sam curses under his breath, pushing away from the counter.

“Is that such a good idea?”

“She’s not speaking to me.”

“What about him?”

Gabriel smirks, but it’s humourless.

“We shouldn’t leave them alone for too long.”

-*-


When Adam was in pre-med, he and his friends had a scheme.

It came to them after one late night with too many drinks, every kind of pizza, and the denial of major assignments due around the corner.

Sitting on the bed with the computer in his lap, Adam finds the hidden folder marked ‘ICE’ within the root directory of his documents.

He really did it. Thank God.

It’s large with a list of at least twenty videos appearing when he opens it. They’re numbered and dated, the last is from the previous year and there are gaps ranging from days to months between the video files. The gaps get longer as the files grow later.

He wonders why he hasn’t updated it lately. Part of his strategy had been to update every three months if he ever started this.

The mouse cursor hovers over the earliest video dated from November 2011.

Adam takes a deep breath and opens it.

“Hey.”

It’s him. It’s Adam.

He’s sitting in an unfamiliar room with cheap mustard curtains and seventies striped wallpaper of browns, yellow, and faded cream. There are laminated signs posted on the door visible over his shoulder and Adam thinks it could be a motel room.

His video self looks hesitant, studying the laptop’s keyboard. There are faint shadows under his eyes and his skin is pale, like he pulled a few late nights before he took out the computer and started recording.

“Never thought I’d actually need to do this.” He sits back in his seat and looks into the camera. “If you’re watching this… me, I mean… you, Adam – and I hope it’s just you – it means something’s gone wrong. If you’re watching it for the reason I made it, it’s probably because you don’t remember.”

He sighs, eyes shutting for a second before he looks into the camera again, face grim.

“I wish you didn’t have to know this life. I’m sorry, man, but it’s going to be your life soon. The life I woke up to in twenty fourteen—“

Adam, the real Adam watching the video, frowns and looks at the file date: 2011. What was going on?

His video self is still talking.

“—you say, so this next bit is really, really important: don’t freak out. If you keep cool and do exactly as I say, you might get through what’s coming so you can sit down and make your own survival manual for the next round. I don’t know how many times this has happened. I found the logs waiting for me and now I’m making my own for you. When I’m done, and it’s your turn, I suggest you do the same. Some things probably change, but the end remains the same: one day not too far away you’re going to get kicked back to 2011, if you’re not already here, and it’s going to suck so bad. But don’t freak out.”

Adam shoves the laptop away on the bed, a cold feeling clenching in his chest.

He stares at the still image of himself for a long time, slouched in that wooden chair, weary and resigned.

He’s thankful that nobody’s around to confirm or deny how well he keeps his calm after that.

-*-


Dean looks up when the knock comes at the study door. He gestures to Bobby and Michael who both slide their papers together and Bobby pulls the computer’s keyboard closer to himself.

He hadn’t had much luck on the electronic front, though.

“It’s open,” Dean says.

Gabriel sticks his head in, grinning around at them and Dean’s surprised to see him. He’s even more surprised the angel didn’t just appear unannounced like he usually did; Sam must have been having an effect on him after all.

“Well, here’s trouble,” Bobby says, pushing the keyboard away.

“Gabriel.” Michael sounds as surprised as Dean feels.

“I missed you too, doll face.” Gabriel winks at Bobby, stepping inside and closing the door behind him.

There’s something on the air that follows Gabriel into the study. It’s warm and fragrant: meat and crunchy potatoes and a wandering pinprick of home that he learned crowded around diner tables with Sam and his Dad on the odd Sunday.

“What’s that smell?” Dean asks.

Gabriel raises an eyebrow at him.

“That’s the fruit of hard work. You sent your brothers into town and thought I’d let them come back empty-handed? What have you clowns been up to all afternoon?”

Dean had no idea that Gabriel was even in town, but then, the angel never called ahead. It was small comfort that at least that hadn’t changed.

“Did Sam tell you what happened?” Bobby asks.

Gabriel’s hands settle on his hips and Dean sees the look he steals at Michael, quick and assessing, before he nods in answer to Bobby’s question. Dean wonders it’s no surprise Sam couldn’t, or maybe wouldn’t, keep anything from the angel who saved his life.

“I dropped him off. Of course he told me. Adam looks like he’s taking it in stride. So, what have you been doing about it?”

Bobby sighs, throwing a hand up at the papers strewn around the desk, at the half-open filing cabinet that he and Dean had spent half the afternoon leafing through. Nothing but ordinary files and a very special gun beneath it all. A gun with very special bullets, but that wasn’t going to give them any answers for this.

“I got bupkiss,” Bobby admits.

Gabriel frowns, looking between them again. Michael’s folded his arms over his chest, leaning against the wall by the window, but he hasn’t made a move to join the conversation and Dean wonders what he’s waiting for, how long it’s been since these two brothers were in the same room.

“What are you looking for?” Gabriel asks.

“We have to tell him,” Michael finally says and he’s looking hard at Dean, expecting him to agree.

Bobby nods when Dean looks to him and, hell, soon everyone was going to know. What the hell? They’d burned an entire day in this closet of a study with nothing to show for it but back cramps and bad tempers.

“Adam didn’t just wake up without his memory,” Dean says, glancing at the door Gabriel’s leaning against, as though Adam could be on the other side listening. It’s stupid, but he lowers his voice anyway. “He was fresh out of the cage.”

Gabriel looks at Dean as though he’s counted from one to ten and missed half the numbers.

“What?”

“That isn’t Adam from our time. The Adam who walked into town with Sam was jumped from the cage less than five days ago,” Bobby says.

The suspicious look on Gabriel’s face morphs into rage so quickly Dean thinks he’s going to fly at them.

“What the hell were you thinking?” His voice has dropped to a growl and he cuts a dark look at his brother. “What about you – were you even thinking? You left Sam alone with that?”

“Raphael was with them,” Michael says, hands sliding into the pockets of his jeans and his shoulders hunch. Dean doesn’t think Michael means for his guilt to show, but it’s hard to miss the way he draws in on himself. The day the angel stopped wearing clothes with pockets he’d be in trouble.

That only makes Gabriel angrier and Dean can’t blame him; it wasn’t his favourite course of action, either, but Michael trusted Raphael and Dean trusted Michael. Funny how a few years made that even possible.

“Castiel healed him,” Bobby interrupts before Gabriel and Michael can start tearing the room apart, “Adam doesn’t remember the cage or anything about how he got to this point in his life. He’s safe. We’re safe.”

We think, Dean mentally adds and has to admit that maybe he trusts a little too much in what worked for Sam would also keep Adam together. He hopes they’re safe.

It takes him a moment to realize that Gabriel is still talking, sharp accusation narrowed at Michael.

“—didn’t you? You used your name.”

“It was still there when I looked, yes. Castiel sealed it in.”

“What exactly are we talking about here?” Bobby interrupts again and Dean’s glad somebody else asked the stupid question because he wasn’t following either. “You’ve talked about these ‘names’ before—“

“Our true names,” Gabriel says. “The ones Dad gave us. We’ve had plenty through human history, even different ones used between the angels, but there’s one that only Dad knows.”

“So, why’s your true call sign so important?” Dean asks.

“It’s our way home. It’s our surviving link with God. Without our names, we’re not angels, we may as well just be another souped-up supernatural with wings,” Gabriel says.

“Wait, wait, wait—“ Dean holds up his hands for silence and points at the two angels. “Does this have anything to do with why you can’t return to Heaven? I thought that was just because God was punishing you in his own special way for not staying down.”

“Nothing can enter Heaven without its true name, no angel, human, nothing. No exceptions – and it’s not because they’re a pack of jerks, it’s just the nature of the beast,” Gabriel says.

“Did you know this would happen?” Bobby asks. He’s looking at Michael.

Michael shakes his head.

“Not for certain. But I’d heard stories.”

“Why the hell would you do it?” Dean asks.

He knows how much this place and Adam meant to the angel now, but why did that mean having to give up his name? Couldn’t he come back and visit from Heaven like Castiel did? Somehow, Dean doesn’t think his brother would have been happy with the arrangement if Michael visited as rarely as Castiel, but there was no way of telling how much of that was thanks to Heavenly regulation and how much was just Castiel being a dick (considering that Cas was rewriting the regulations, Dean’s not betting on the first option).

Gabriel snorts a laugh under his breath and he’s shaking his head with a knowing expression.

“Because he wanted to get out. You gave up your name in the cage. Didn’t you?”

Michael braces his hands on his hips as he straightens against the wall. Dean’s never heard this story before and he wonders how the hell that was possible for all the years he’d let this guy stand at his side. He’d just assumed Michael had escaped because the cage wasn’t meant for him, and a cage that only needed sixty-six of six hundred-and-sixty-six broken might have been an easier feat for the guy who helped build it in the first place.

Dean was again assuming Michael had something to do with the cage’s construction, but for all he knew, it could have existed before Lucifer’s fall, maybe even before the angels, if anything did come before Heaven.

“After I was interned, I learned Crowley had refashioned the locks to bind Lucifer and I. He and I specifically. Somehow the demon had learned our true names—“

“Well, this is Crowley you’re talking about,” Bobby mutters under his breath.

Gabriel nods with a quirk of the mouth. Dean wouldn’t put it past the former trickster to have run into the former king of the crossroads and later king of hell in an older life.

“I had to lose my name,” Michael continues slowly. “So, I took my vessel, hid my name in his soul, and broke us out.”

There’s silence in the study for a few long moments. Finally, Dean shakes his head. It’s too neat, too simple.

“How does an angel lose their name in the first place? You just set it down one day and forgot you told Adam to swallow?”

“It’s self-mutilation, Dean. It’s not easy,” Gabriel answers, and Dean has a feeling that, for the first time, the angel didn’t appreciate his humor.

He remembers Anna and her story of cutting out her grace. He wonders if it’s the same, with all the efficiency of carving with a butter knife like she’d described, but he thinks it would be rude to ask.

“You did the same thing for Sam, didn’t you?”

Gabriel nods, a curious look creeping across his features as he looks to Michael.

“I got the idea from you.”

Michael shrugs, shaking his head.

“I only suspected it helped Adam after we saw him without it during the war. I believe it’s the reason why he was able to speak with us the first time he woke,” Michael says, looking to Dean. “But it wouldn’t have been enough. We needed Castiel’s help.”

Dean suspects Bobby is staring at the nails in the floorboards. He watches Bobby drum a beat on his knee, one, one-two-three. Dean imagines he would hear it if the quiet lasted long enough.

“So, that’s why you can’t go back to Heaven?” Dean asks.

Michael nods.

“But it’s this timing… this timing I don’t understand. Why did he end up here?”

Gabriel looks between the three of them.

“Again: what the hell have you guys been doing here all afternoon?”

Dean rolls his eyes, leaning back in his chair and throws a hand to Bobby.

“Oh, you know: shooting the breeze, checking our fantasy football teams. Sure as hell not trying to figure out why Adam turned up here now and who or what we’ve been dealing with for the last five years.”

Gabriel does a bang-up job of trying to look impressed.

“And you thought you were going to find the answer with their invoices?”

“We thought we might find a clue to something,” Bobby shoots back, challenging Gabriel to do better.

“I’ve told you, it was Adam. It was him. The person with us, that’s Adam, too,” Michael says for the umpteenth time Dean’s heard it today.

But it’s one thing to be told and another thing to have hard evidence in front of him and there had been nothing Dean saw or documented over the years to suggest otherwise, despite how hard they looked and compared their recollections.

“And where’s today’s Adam?” Gabriel asks.

The silence rings again and Gabriel hums thoughtfully at the overwhelming response.

“All right, so my best friend just disappeared off the face of the planet and none of you assholes were going to tell me. Thanks.”

Dean’s fingers curl tightly under the edge of his chair. This was his brother Gabriel was talking about and he didn’t like the angel thinking he had a higher priority caring about Adam. Or Sam, for that matter.

“We thought it could be Lucifer. In the cage. We didn’t want to risk it with your connection,” he says, meeting Gabriel’s dark look with his own. His jaw flexes as he resists the urge to grind his jaw and he hears Bobby speak up.

“Can you help?”

Gabriel’s scowl barely lifts when he tears his glower from Dean to Bobby.

“Well here’s the bad news: it sounds like you’ve wasted a day of your lives you’re never getting back,” Gabriel says and Dean glares at him.

“And what’s the good news, Tinkerbell?”

“The good news is that dinner’s ready, there’s wine on the table and – Christ on a pyre, of course I’m going to help you, you morons! This is my family, too! I should revoke your cable for not telling us earlier.”

“But, Gabriel—“ Michael starts, silenced by a sharp look of reprisal from his brother.

“I’m really surprised by you, bro. You’re supposed to go above and – whatever, forget it. I’ll look for Adam in the now. You guys figure out the rest. And if you need me, call, like Sam did. I wouldn’t even be here right now if he hadn’t admitted he needed help.” Gabriel makes no attempt at subtlety with the look he points at Dean. “You could learn to take a few notes from your brother; maybe then you could hold onto your own angel, too.”

Gabriel may be a good ally and a better friend, but Dean’s running low on four hours of sleep for the second day in a row. He’s had a frustrating afternoon researching with nothing to show for it after seeing Sam for the first time in weeks and he had been stressing ever since about letting him go into town with Raphael, of all people, and their jail-broken sibling who thought they were all crazy.

It’s been a shitty day and something in Dean snaps.

Bobby’s arm slams across Dean’s chest when he leaps out of his chair, fist pulled back, and he feels Michael’s hands on his shoulders, holding him fast.

“Hey, you know I’m right. I’m not saying it just to get a rise.” Gabriel smirks at him with a shrug.

“Dean. Dean, let it go,” Michael says when Dean lunges for him again.

The last time Dean tried to go after Gabriel, he ended up with a bullet in his back for his brief efforts. It doesn’t make Dean want to try any less.

And to think that Gabriel was usually Dean’s second favorite, the one who sympathized with Dean when their brothers were being a pain or too emotional to stomach. They’d stowed away a few kegs of beer together during the war in commiseration. They'd even sung songs about it (when the hours got late and the beer flowed more freely than usual).

Dean.” Bobby’s growl winds through the cloud of red and Dean realizes the man’s dropped his cane to keep his grip on him; that was bad news for his back. If only he’d let the angels heal him.

“Bobby, what the –“ The hands on Dean lift as he stoops to pick up Bobby’s walking cane and shove it back in his hand. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking I’d like some o’that roast I can smell before Gabriel stomps you through the floor,” Bobby shoots back, trembling with the strain of standing unsupported, and glares at Michael when the angel tries to help him. He leans heavily on his cane with both hands and breathes through his nose, tension vibrating in his arms.

Sam and Dean had joked about growing gray in this business, but it was so much harder watching Bobby’s slow decline. Bobby wasn’t even that old, but the years were catching up with him. God, Dean wishes the old man wasn’t so stubborn – not that he could talk.

“It’s like Cas said: if they want to help, let ‘em,” Bobby says and Dean can’t stifle his wince at the angel’s name, at the exhaustion in Bobby’s voice.

He eventually nods.

“Okay,” Gabriel’s voice is bright with the breakthrough. “I’ll be back in ten minutes. In the meantime, I’ve got wine downstairs and dinner’s getting cold, so don’t wait up for me.”

The tension in Dean’s gut tentatively uncoils with the thought of a hot dinner and Bobby slaps his shoulder on the way past.

“C’mon, son. I need a beer.”

Dean lets out a defeated breath, finding that he has to agree. He definitely needed something to wash down the day’s disappointment.

“Gabriel,” Dean stops the angel before he leaves, noting that Michael’s taking his time putting away the papers on the desk. “Adam has no idea about any of this. As far as he knows, he’s just a med student who fell off the roof. And he has an angel looking over his shoulder, because Mike couldn’t keep his mouth shut.”

He can practically feel the look of knives Michael throws at his back.

“Okay.” Gabriel glances over Dean’s shoulder and, although he’s hesitant, nods when he meets his eye again. “Okay, we’re being careful. No need to shock the kid until we have a good reason to break him, right?”

Dean frowns. He actually had no wish for that to happen, but he understands what Gabriel means.

“Right.”

Dean is grateful, for the dinner, for the concession, and he just hopes Gabriel will follow through with something to report, but with every other person who’s walked through this house, the secret’s become harder and harder to keep. There are just too many people to explain and Adam was too curious.

“Dean-o.” Gabriel’s voice lowers and he’s lost the humor when Dean looks back at him. “I’m sorry. But you’re not the righteous man anymore, so stop acting like it.”

It scolding, but gentle, and Dean recognizes the friend in Gabriel that he’d almost forgotten about since he and Sam went their own way.

“You’ve gotta forgive us,” Gabriel says, then tilts his head significantly, “And forgive yourself, too.”

Dean makes a face.

“I’m sorry, what?”

He glances over his shoulder at Michael who was probably procrastinating with those papers by this point. There were only so many times they could be shuffled and lined, but it was polite of him to try ignoring them.

Gabriel’s hand closes tightly over Dean’s shoulder and his expression pulls into deep sympathy.

“When you hurt, I hurt. When you cry, I cry for your ego. And when you take the world on your shoulders by yourself, I stick you in a never-ending audition of So You Think You Can Dance until you say uncle and ask for help like you should have in the first place. Idiot.”

Dean turns back to Gabriel with a lazy smirk and rolls his shoulders through the tension gathering at Gabriel’s affectionate mockery. He gazes out the window above the staircase.

“It’s okay to admit you missed me, Gabriel.”

“I did miss catching your tears on my shoulder, Deanna.”

“I miss having my house to myself. Can I get past?” Michael asks, apparently done with the façade of ignorance. Gabriel and Dean exchange a smile, all forgiven for the moment, and Dean lets the angel clasp his shoulder once more before Michael closes the door behind him. They start on the way down for dinner and that’s the precise moment that the bedroom door swings open.

Adam appears, his face ashen, and he looks exhausted. Had something happened?

“Hey. You all right? Adam?” Dean asks as Michael brushes past him, beating Dean’s impulse to draw Adam aside, check the light in his eyes and maybe take his temperature.

“Are you all right?” Michael murmurs, an echo of Dean’s question, and as Dean watches them there’s a nagging doubt in his gut that he hasn’t felt for a while that something about the two of them doesn’t fit.

All these years, Michael and Adam had let him believe this thing about Michael’s name had happened as a result of Adam’s possession, like branding cattle. How had Michael fallen so hard for his youngest brother when he only gave his name over to break free? Was it just something that happened when angels gave that part of themselves to someone? Maybe it had been inevitable?

There is one thing Dean is almost certain of: five years ago, Adam started this relationship. Dean still finds it hard to believe that Adam convinced Michael to entertain the idea and to this day had chalked the success up to too long in confined quarters, but maybe there was more to it.

He looks at Gabriel, who’s taken his hand back, watching Adam and Michael hover in that doorway. Dean would have to ask him about that later.

“Yeah.” Adam’s saying and he’s removing Michael’s hands, pushing them back to his sides. “I—let’s eat.”

Gabriel falls in step with Adam when he starts down the stairs, smiling when Adam glances at him, but he doesn’t prompt him to speak and Adam lets him linger. In spite of the fact Gabriel could be a cocky bastard, Dean’s glad he’s here. He understood humans better than all the familiar company of angels combined and he had proven to be a good friend to all of them.

Dean stops Michael with a hand to his shoulder. He sympathizes with the concern in Michael’s face when Michael frowns, but Dean’s pretty sure Michael is just complicating the situation.

“Remember what I said about the couch?” Dean asks and understanding lights Michael’s features. “I let you off last night because Cas asked me to. I’m grateful for whatever you did because Adam’s not trying to run anymore, but tonight I mean it.” Dean pushes him hard in the muscle between shoulder and chest. “You’re on the couch.”

And it seems ridiculous that he should have to point this out to Michael, but the confusing way Michael leans away from him with a thin scowl suggests, apparently not.

Dean stops him again when he descends that first step.

“He’s not the guy you know, Mike. It isn’t right. You’re confusing him.”

The rigid tension seeps out of Michael’s shoulders and, although Dean doesn’t get verbal agreement before the angel continues on his way down, he feels like he won this one.

It would be so awesome if someone listened to him for a change.

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