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

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Sam has no idea why Gabriel is doing this and it still surprises him how persistent Gabriel can be despite the majority opposition. Sam used to believe it was because all angels shared the wilful “I don’t care what you want because this is what I’m doing” attitude, but Gabriel, like Castiel, usually knew when to back off.

Usually.

Gabriel must have really believed this scavenger hunt around the property was necessary, even though Sam still didn’t know what they were looking for.

“We’ll split into two teams.” Gabriel points at Dean and the angel who comes up behind his shoulder. “Mike and Dean.”

Dean glares at his assigned team mate, arms crossing tightly over his chest. He doesn’t have Sam’s patience. Michael is looking between Dean and Gabriel with the suspicion of a deer in headlights that has no idea what he’s just walked in to.

“What’s this for, Gabriel?” Dean asks.

“Sam and Luci,” Gabriel continues and something occurs to Sam while he also notes that Gabriel hasn’t volunteered himself for the search.

Dean, unsurprisingly, has exactly the same thought.

“And what the hell will you be doing?”

“Where’s Lucifer?” Sam asks. “And where’s Adam?”

They all look around, but it’s only the four of them by the stone retaining wall where a pile of unused rocks had been left by the original stone masons. Sam had followed Gabriel out here thinking the angel actually intended to clear them away.

As though Gabriel would ever stoop to manual labour. What had Sam been thinking?

Sam and Gabriel exchange a look (no, I haven’t seen them; me neither), then look to Michael.

Michael was a strange guy. Like most of the angels, he was new to a human vessel, and Sam believed there were still some dots to connect between the angel’s nature and the new form he had to communicate with. But it was the involuntary reactions that were the most interesting.

Michael’s ‘oh shit’ face was hard to recognise if you didn’t know him because he just went blank.

“He was right behind me,” Michael says, looking over his shoulder, but Sam could have told him that Adam wasn’t there.

“What are we doing?” Lucifer murmurs, startling Sam as he presses against his side and runs a hand up his arm. Sam almost relaxes, but something isn’t right. He frowns, searching Lucifer’s expression of casual interest that turns to question when he notices Sam staring. “What?”

Lucifer probably invented the poker face. It seemed stupid of Sam to try waiting it out, besides, he only had a feeling.

“Have you seen Adam?” Sam asks.

Lucifer nods and points at the wall, or beyond the wall, Sam imagines.

“He returned to the house.”

“He okay?” Dean asks, clearly expecting anything but a ‘yes’.

Sam sees Michael bristle and straighten the way he always did before he took flight too fast for their eyes to follow, and, really? Was he going to do that every time?

“Hey, hey!” He quickly motions for Michael to stay. “Maybe we should just give him some space? We haven’t really given him much time on his own since this whole thing happened and, I dunno, after last night? He’s probably just hung over.”

Michael stares at him like he’s waiting for a better punch line.

“I’ll go. You guys stay here and take a look around.” Gabriel sighs.

“What are we looking for?” Lucifer asks.

It’s been a long time since Sam saw Gabriel look annoyed and he’s not sure that even Lucifer deserves it this time because he has no idea, either, but then Gabriel snaps his fingers and Sam finds himself alone with Lucifer facing a garden hedge.

A very tall garden hedge that boxed them in on all sides.

“Is this a labyrinth?” Sam looks between the green walls that have at least another length of him in height. “Did he just stick us in a labyrinth?”

-*-


“Why the hell did I get stuck with the preppy one?” Dean grumbles to himself as he storms down the garden path and ignores Michael who was probably still staring at the hedge tops and stumped at Gabriel’s design.

Why did Gabriel always have to pull this sort of thing when he had a hang over?

“Give it a rest – you can’t fly out,” he shouts at the angel over his shoulder, “let’s find a way out of here because, unlike some of my brothers, I haven’t actually had breakfast! I was going to go back when I’d finished helping Gabriel with this thing – just a quick thing, he said! See if I ever try to help you again, you jackass!” Dean shouts at the sky.

“Don’t indulge him,” Michael says, moving past Dean, still studying the hedges. “How does he do this? How does it bind me?”

“Mike, Gabriel’s had thousands of years to learn more than a few tricks. Hell, it was his profession. Just – figure it out. He’s your brother. And I’m starving.”

Michael sinks his hand into the hedge with a thoughtful sound and watches it slowly bend back into shape when he pulls his hand away. He looks from his hand to the hedge and Dean rolls his eyes as the angel peers closer at the plant wall as if trying to see through it. Dean had already tried that and it was too thick to see anything but leaves and branches.

“We’re going to be here for a while,” Dean admits to himself and doesn’t wait for Michael before heading on.

-*-


Adam doesn’t look up from the laptop when Gabriel sticks his head around the door.

The angel had knocked, but Adam didn’t want to see anyone and even when Gabriel had spoken through the door, advising Adam that he was coming in (not asking permission to enter, were they all like that?), Adam hadn’t bothered to put up a protest.

These were angels and there wasn’t much he could do to stop them.

He’s on the ninth of the video entries. His video self appears to be in another motel room, different shades of polka dot blue on the walls behind him.

He doesn’t bother turning it off or even hitting pause when Gabriel comes up behind him.

In the video, Adam drags a hand down his face. His face is pale and the sigh he releases is slow and heavy. He shakes his head, studying something beyond the vantage of the camera.

“My brothers think I’m crazy. Fuck, I know I’m crazy. But I know I can do this… I think if I can just get Michael to stop trying to rip his name out long enough for me to talk to him, I can tell him there’s another way. I can tell him there’s a way he gets to keep his family and everybody lives but he’s just angry all the Goddamn time – I don’t think he’ll listen….”

Adam senses Gabriel at his shoulder as he watches the video, but Gabriel doesn’t say anything.

“I tried the ‘God has commanded it’ line like I was told to and if I ever get my hands on you, Michael, I’ll find a way to kick your ass ‘cause that sure as hell was not the right thing to say to yourself in the past. How could you get it so Goddamn wrong? Don’t you know yourself at all? Did you forget what a fucking psycho you used to be – I almost got killed today!”

Adam hits the ‘pause’ button. He knows the video isn’t shouting at him, but it still shakes him. His chest hurts with the tension.

Gabriel doesn’t say anything. His expression is inscrutable, looking at the frozen image of Adam on the screen, when Adam finally turns to him.

“Is this what I have to look forward to?” Adam asks.

“Where did you find these?” Gabriel asks carefully.

“I found them yesterday, right here.” Adam nods at the laptop and shuts the lid. He doesn’t like being glared at by his not really reflection. “There’s a whole series from me to myself. They start about five years ago.”

“Huh. Last time they were on a box set in storage.”

“… Last time? Gabriel, you knew about this? How many times has this happened? Was anybody going to say anything to me?”

Gabriel shrugs like it’s nothing, as though Adam hasn’t just had the rudest awakening of his life.

“Well, I was the only one you told last time, to be fair.”

“Why? Last time – dude, please just tell me what’s going on.”

Gabriel smiles at him, it’s simple and serene. It’s not catching. He squeezes Adam’s shoulder firmly.

“Why? Because I’m your best friend. What… is a long story, but don’t worry, I made sure we’ve got time.”

-*-


Apparently this has all happened before and, as far as Gabriel can understand, it will happen again. Nobody else remembers, not even Gabriel, having only Adam’s word and the video evidence to go by, but every time it’s a little different. Every time, they end up in Napa and, every time, Adam eventually disappears.

It takes Gabriel less than an hour to affirm what the videos had poorly tried to explain of the last five years: how Michael returned with the intent to kill the Winchesters who had derailed his plans for the apocalypse ending his family feud.

How Adam’s brothers had been stumped and frustrated at every turn by Adam’s reluctance to fight after Balthazar found him at a literal crossroads one evening at the border with New Mexico and brought him back to Singer’s Salvage Yard.

How Sam and Dean understandably flew off the handle when they realised Adam was trying to talk Michael down using reason and stories about another life they’d apparently shared together; about a house in Napa. About how Michael’s siblings had come back together and, although God had never returned, they became the closest thing to a family since Lucifer’s fall.

Adam listens in horror to Gabriel’s account of how Sam and Dean only found out because they caught Adam feeding Michael his blood to help him keep his temporary vessel. Castiel had discovered that Michael couldn’t lie to Adam while Adam held his name and, compounded with the almost drunken effect of Adam’s blood, Michael spilled everything he knew. It was like Sam and Ruby all over again, but worse because they were fuelling the other side, and the only reason his brothers didn’t kill him was because Adam’s blood loss almost did it for them. The intel they gained made all the difference.

Sam and Dean weren’t the only ones who were livid. It tipped Heaven’s civil war in Castiel’s favour and after Raphael declared Michael a traitor, she came after Adam directly.

Castiel and Balthazar had been waiting for her when she touched down in front of that highway motel while Sam, Dean and Adam drove for the border with Canada.

There had been an angel named ‘Sariel’ expecting them.

With Raphael’s rise to the top, Sariel had become her first lieutenant and Sariel had been around since the beginning, like them.

Gabriel tells Adam that since Lucifer’s fall, Sariel’s loyalties had never been entirely clear, but Sariel had taken the initiative to end the Winchester’s corruption of his brothers. Sariel had been among the angels who sired Nephilim, but repented; he knew the dangers that humanity posed to the angels’ divine mission.

Sariel blamed Dean for Castiel’s dissension. He blamed Sam for Gabriel’s death (and that had come from far left field, they didn’t understand it until Gabriel came back to them). Most immediately, though, Sariel intended to wipe Adam from existence before he could influence Michael as well.

Castiel had been a rebel who rose through the ranks, but if Michael broke with Heaven, the damage would be unfathomable. Even in the cage, Michael had been a symbol of the original order and authority, but if he turned, Sariel had no doubt that it could destroy Raphael and there would be chaos among the remaining garrisons. Heaven and everything within it would suffer the shockwaves.

Adam didn’t get the opportunity to explain that Michael hadn’t shown any sign of switching sides, especially after Adam tricked him, because then Sariel was after them and they were reminded that the Impala couldn’t outrace angels in flight.

They’d crashed through an embankment of snow, the Impala burying her nose within a line of trees after a bad turn on black ice. Something landed on top of them and Dean let off three rounds before they’d realised Sariel was standing in the headlights among the trees and it was Michael on the Impala’s roof, which Dean wasn’t too thrilled about, either.

Until they realised Michael was warning Sariel to leave, but Sariel was disillusioned enough to question him, which was all it took for Michael to fly into a fury, and at this point Gabriel’s story got fuzzy because Adam’s later recollection he told Gabriel was missing a lot of pieces.

Michael had intervened to protect his own name. Nobody yet knew what would happen to him if Adam was killed while still holding it between the threads of his soul.

Sam, Dean and Adam had just managed to climb out of the car when the other angels appeared.

Castiel and Balthazar fell with Raphael from the sky like a bolt of lightning. Raphael’s scream was a roar of outrage and betrayal when she saw Michael at arms against Sariel.

Sariel took a sword to the gut and Raphael threw her sword at Michael in retribution. Raphael took Sariel and flew before any of them could react, before Michael could explain to his first lieutenant and most loyal brother, slumping to the snow with the sword in his chest.

Gabriel says this is when the war really turned because Adam and Balthazar convinced the others to take Michael with them. Adam had predictably agreed first when Castiel and Balthazar explained how they could heal Michael, if indeed that was the course they would take, but Dean had surprised them all.

Adam was already too weak, Dean had said, almost bled himself dry for the asshole who ended up with a hole in his chest anyway. He hadn’t meant it in a proud way and he looked about ready to kill someone when Michael eventually pulled his hand away from the healing charge of Dean’s soul, the light in his eyes fading with the aftershocks of their connection.

It was days before Michael could rise from his bed; Raphael’s sword had narrowly missed his heart, and the worst of the damage, where Raphael and Michael’s ties had been severed, couldn’t be balmed by any intervention.

Four days after their confrontation with Sariel and Raphael, four days since Michael had been under their guard, Lucifer broke free from the cage.

He had been paying attention when Michael took Adam and escaped. With Sam’s body and soul gone, Lucifer had no more vessels, but there was one thing of another he still had from his time on Earth: Gabriel’s sword, the very sword Lucifer had used to kill him.

Gabriel’s face is grim and difficult as he tells Adam of how Lucifer had reformed him from atoms and whispers of what he used to be, how legions of demons and ruined souls laid down their lives at the broken seal of the cage so their Morningstar could walk again beside the vessel of his brother. Gabriel grows silent at this point, as though the thought he was resurrected from the essence of so many wretched things makes him feel sick and sullied, and Adam doesn’t know how to comfort him, so he sits and waits patiently until Gabriel shakes his head with a sigh and continues.

Gabriel was resurrected in the fires of hell and tied with a ribbon inscribed with Lucifer’s name so that the Devil could step through the cage, nameless, and return them both to Earth.

From the halting, then almost too off-handed way that Gabriel tells it, Adam thinks this is the abridged version. Adam doesn’t blame him for not lingering on that time in Hell, or what it took for Lucifer to break them free, nor what Lucifer did when they first saw blue sky again.

Lucifer wanted revenge against Michael and Adam for leaving him to the cage where it was vast and cold, but first he wanted (needed) Sam. What Lucifer hadn’t counted on was that Gabriel had his own strong opinions about Sam; specifically, that Gabriel was obsessed with Sam in his own way and no amount of hellfire still seeded under his skin could make him forget some of the other reasons he had switched sides.

After Lucifer gave Gabriel his name, they were intrinsically connected – bonded as though they were one. Lucifer could feel Gabriel’s every misgiving and surge of guilt; he could sense his movement and knew exactly where Gabriel was at any point in time, which made it difficult to sneak away without endangering the Winchesters.

Gabriel summoned Castiel, who summoned Balthazar, who slapped the first shielding ward on Gabriel that he could reach for when he realised just whom Gabriel was attached to. It lasted less than an hour, but it was long enough for Gabriel to see Sam and understand that his walls were falling down.

What lay behind Sam’s barriers was more than Gabriel knew he would survive, so in the series of a few long breaths, Gabriel lay both his and Lucifer’s names in the mortar of Death’s wall to keep Sam standing.

Lucifer was not happy when he realised what Gabriel had done and he realised as soon as the deed was complete. A new host of alien feelings rushed through him, things he had no reason or right to experience, and it confounded him. His anger burned cold when he got his hands on Gabriel again.

Lying between Sam and Lucifer, Gabriel could shield Lucifer from Sam’s location while giving Sam the full benefit of their grace. Unfortunately, or not depending on the point of view, both Gabriel and Lucifer could now feel everything that Sam experienced. And if he wasn’t stressed, he was melancholy, but sometimes there were bursts of such surprising strength, assurance and confidence, born from his will to protect Dean and Adam.

Gabriel had intended to subvert Lucifer’s plans by laying him as a slave to Sam’s questions, but he’d underestimated how much Sam’s feelings would affect them both with only each other for company.

When the echo of Sam’s longing for long blonde hair and soft, warm comfort coursed through them, the memory of that trust and intimate belonging dredged up long burned and buried memories of Heaven. Remembering was like the agony of serrated blades cleaving through their grace like butter. Gabriel and Lucifer had pushed those memories down for a reason: the only thing that hurt more than being apart from Heaven was being apart and remembering what it had been like to be there, to be lifted within the chorus of all the angels, and know the true glory of their Father’s unconditional love.

There was nothing more wrenching than to learn that, without their Father, they didn’t know how to love without terms and conditions; and then to learn that, sometimes, even love wasn’t enough.

Love, itself, had never been the problem.

Gabriel was the one who initiated the first kind touch, but Lucifer no longer knew how to recognise or trust kindness. He suspected that every brush, every jibe, and gentle word had an undercutting motivation.

It was tiring never being able to trust anyone.

Unsurprisingly, when Gabriel finally succeeded, it had started with a fight. They weren’t actually very good at fighting because Lucifer was always reacting instinctively to Gabriel through the bond half a beat before Gabriel was aware of his own response, which meant that half the conversation was already over before Gabriel had joined in. It was endlessly frustrating, so Gabriel decided a different tactic: to feed Lucifer more information than he knew what to deal with.

It was easier said than done to feel with enough intensity and keep the torrent open to stun Lucifer into silence.

Gabriel loved his brother and he knew Lucifer still loved him, too. They’d just forgotten for a while.

In the aftermath, when they accidentally learned that they both also wanted Sam….

Well.

That was the start of an interesting six months.

-*-


Sam and Adam had shredded their own hole in Heaven and Heavens alongside it with their gluttonous bloodlust, the desperate, ravenous need to destroy and consume, to fill that jagged void within themselves that Michael and Lucifer had left behind.

Michael didn’t know the state of his Father’s home. He would later learn that Castiel had caught the brothers as they tore through the veil into Kate Milligan’s Heaven and it was probably no mistake that Sariel had left them so close. The Campbells and then the Winchesters would have been next, climbing along Heaven’s branches towards that enviable peak and the throne at its heart.

Blood smeared on Michael’s lips when Adam kissed him, rough and greedy, as though he knew Michael would pull away at the first chance because, somewhere out there, Gabriel was chasing Sariel on his own. Sariel, who was wielding the archangels’ names like fine blades, had left Sam and Adam to their carnage in those gardens of Heaven in confused agony with their walls torn down.

Michael could only drag Adam away when Castiel swept down and all but threw the human at him like he was a live bomb, before disappearing to retrieve Sam.

At first, Adam fought him, and he was fast, but Michael’s entire purpose was war. He could have left Adam in that warded bar to wreak his chaos, but the insane lilt to Adam’s laughter made him stop and wonder. That was the cage escaping from him and Michael didn’t like that sound.

He caught Adam’s hands the next time they swung for him, smothered the lash of fury from Adam’s soul, and humoured his attempts to tear Michael’s skin with teeth, the wound in Michael’s side already healing.

Adam was impossibly strong and barely grunted when Michael slammed him against the brick wall, raining mortar dust in their hair. Adam’s laugh had been delighted and secret, curling low when Michael pried the bloody hands from his side, pinning them by Adam’s shoulders.

Adam grinned back at him with eyes glazed white and someone else’s blood smeared on his cheek.

Every time Adam’s heart beat, Michael shuddered with the hot rush of Adam’s rage and hunger through his own vessel’s every muscle, vein, and thought. He felt it twice over from the alien instincts that shocked through the lingering connection of his name, rippling through flesh into grace, then from the almost violent force behind Adam’s kiss that drew him in until the back of Adam’s head hit the wall.

Michael had sworn he’d never do this. He would never lower himself to the mires of human lust, greed and wrath that had distracted his brothers, but this human held the key to his return to Heaven, and somehow this is what Adam needed (this or destruction). It didn’t bear thinking about what would happen to Michael’s plans if he let his means fall to pieces. He could do this much.

Adam pulled at their clothes, cotton and denim tearing when Michael helped him, and a single pass down Adam’s arms brought Michael’s hands away slick with foreign blood. Releasing Adam’s hands, he noted how easily the human let Michael spread his thighs against the wall, but Adam’s grip on his arms dug sharp like a warning at the first blunt push of Michael’s fingers into him. He watched Adam’s eyes slide half-shut, mouth falling open in a gasp as he thrust with his fingers once, scissoring on the second withdraw (too wide, too quick, he knew from the way Adam’s body trembled, his soft mewling growl), and Adam cried out at the final brutal push of three, then four fingers deep, of grace and heat as Michael spread him open and held him there for a shuddering breath, and Adam broke the skin on his arms when Michael’s fingers slipped out, he pulled one of Adam’s thighs tighter around his waist and thrust up as he pushed Adam down onto his cock.

He should have been prepared for it. He didn’t expect this to clamp down on his senses like a strike to his grace, feeling the racing drum of his pulse ricochet through his own vessel in shock. For one long moment, he could only register the licks of heat everywhere Adam touched him, palms sliding over Michael’s skin, and Adam’s chest shook with that low, mocking laugh against the shell of Michael’s ear.

“Is your answer death, Michael?”

It was confusing that Adam hadn’t uttered an intelligible syllable until Michael was inside him, trying to end his noise, and Michael was having difficulty understanding through the dense cloud of sensation.

“If I killed them all, would you stay with me?” Adam formed his proposal at the corner of the angel’s lips, teeth catching and opening Michael to a filthy, possessive kiss when the angel’s lips parted. But then Michael adjusted his leverage, drove in hard, and the white hot crest was like a strike to his gut, threatening to melt his knees. Adam groaned with relish and dragged his mouth to suck the blood he’d smeared at Michael’s jaw, his grip curled behind Michael’s neck, and Michael had never realised his own need to breathe until then.

He actually wanted this. He wanted Adam. He knew it was sin that made him want to crush Adam against him and never let go, but he couldn’t tell if this was from himself or the shivering hunger rolling off Adam; their connection had distorted everything. Michael had endured months of feeling the human’s tug of longing mixed with confusion and anger like the constant ache of a wound that refused to heal in the heart of his temporary vessel. He knew Adam could cherish him and only him, but right then, he just wanted to make Adam senseless until he forgot he had ever been taught to speak.

“Stay with me.” Adam smirked and pressed his forehead to Michael’s.

Michael was too consumed by the sweat-slick strength of Adam rolling down onto him to answer. He thought he might have heard bones click when the next shove of Michael’s hips drove Adam hard against the wall, cold rough brick scraping along his back.

Michael found his revelation when Adam gasped, then stuttered to a surprised moan. The slow, slackening pleasure that trembled through Adam each time Michael withdrew was better than the sadistic laughter and Michael realised that if he kept Adam pinned like this, rocking into him over and over, slow and hard and steady, Adam may have tried tearing his arms to ribbons and bruising them as he fought for leverage, but he wouldn’t catch his breath.

The first time Michael’s release hit him, something came apart in the wall as he muffled his wretched groan against Adam’s neck. After, they’d crumbled to the cold, cement floor, Adam wrapped around him, but Adam’s desire had still raged like an open furnace against his grace and, trembling from the aftershocks, Michael caught the hands scraping short nails up his sides.

“You look so fucking gorgeous like this,” Adam had smirked up against his mouth when Michael rolled him onto his back and pulled Adam’s hips into his lap, hooked Adam’s knee over his shoulder as the other wrapped around his waist. Adam’s eyes were still white and he was breathing hard as Michael slid down, bracing himself.

“Adam.” Michael watched Adam’s breath hitch as Michael parted him again, wilfully ignoring the hard, weeping erection Adam tried to thrust against his stomach. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to his cheekbone. “You look like a demon.”

Michael fought the instinct drawing his eyes shut as he rocked into Adam again. It was like a collar being pulled tight around his throat, exquisite and suffocating, and he watched the long, pale line of Adam’s neck extend as his head fell back with a grateful whimper.

“Michael, please….”

Michael caught his hands again when Adam tried reaching down to take hold of himself. Adam moved back against his thrusts, limbs melting as Michael seemed to find the angle that made him shiver and moan. Adam tasted like salt and copper and the thick, raw burn of the cage. Although he lacked any basis for comparison, even Michael knew something wasn’t right when Adam still hadn’t come by that second time he pushed Michael over the edge, fingers piercing the concrete by Adam’s ear like tissue paper. When his vision cleared, he felt the light touch on his face and noticed the glaze fading from Adam’s eyes. Adam stared at him with an expression of curious wonder, but there was pain there, too, and he trembled every time he breathed out.

Michael meant to ask if this was normal and Adam must have seen the question in his face because his hand was over the angel’s mouth in the next instant. Michael felt the heat of his shuddering exhale as Adam shook his head. If this was the way Adam wanted it then Michael could agree that he didn’t care enough to ask.

Adam was slick, warm, potentially addictive heat constricted tight around him and that was enough. When his fingers fell away, Michael tilted his head to catch Adam’s mouth. He swallowed Adam’s groan of relief when he let Adam wrap both their hands around himself, stroking with long pulls as Adam’s other hand gripped Michael’s hips and took him in deeper.

But something was wrong, Adam’s relief soon turned to frustration, and Michael had favoured Adam’s wince, pulling out almost ten minutes later and sitting back on his haunches. He could feel how close Adam was and how long he’d been poised against it, but nothing made a difference.

Chest heaving against the strain, Adam surprised him with the strength of his will, staggering to his feet and then pulled Michael after him the few steps to the bar top. Michael had his first taste of human beer as Adam siphoned it straight from the draught. Adam laughed when half the glass spilled down Michael’s front. Michael failed to suppress the smile at the bright amusement in Adam’s voice, thready hiss of the cage almost gone, but then Adam had stooped to lick, suck, and lap up the mess from his chest and Michael forgot to stop him.

When Adam dropped to his knees, Michael had meant to pull him back up, to warn that men didn’t bow to angels, but then Adam swallowed him down, his palm rolling and massaging Michael’s balls between his legs, the roar of hot, wet pleasure trembled through his vessel, and the wooden bar top splintered under his grip. Michael sagged against the bar watching Adam’s lips stretch around him, cheeks hollowed as his tongue and throat sucked and kneaded and pulled him down in the most blissful, urgent sense of drowning.

“Adam,” Michael groaned, burying a hand in Adam’s hair, almost brought to his knees by the slick, persistent heat that laved the tip of his cock. He barely recognised his own voice, hoarse and desperate.

In that one selfish moment, a muted part of him wondered if maybe that was already falling, but he was too confused by Adam’s urgency, and then Adam’s heady moan that vibrated through him right down to his bones, as though Adam was enjoying this as much – if not more – than Michael.

Adam had looked amazing, but it wasn’t until he was splayed across the bar top, legs around Michael’s waist, hair matted to his forehead, and a low whine in his throat, that something changed. Before that final crest, Michael lifted his lips from Adam’s chest, Adam had tilted up to kiss him and Michael saw his opening through the haze of lust because Adam’s eyes were clear again: blue.

He had barely sunk fingers through Adam’s chest to band-aid the void and the moment his grace brushed the raw, exposed edges of Adam’s soul, Adam was coming hard across both their stomachs, head thrown back in a strangled a scream. He tensed with the strain of release he’d been bowed against for over an hour, expression pulled tight, his fingers dug into Michael’s arm and the sweaty skin at his nape. Adam made it look like agony and Michael gasped at the shuddering pain-confused-pleasure when Adam’s soul clawed for him and hooked in, searing to his grace. He felt Adam’s heart racing like it was his own, a staccato rhythm that would punch out of his chest, it was too heavy, too fast, it was devastating, and it seemed to last for minutes as Adam moaned and whimpered through it.

If Michael had known the permanence of crossing a hollowed soul with nameless grace at the time, he wouldn’t have crushed Adam against the bar and drank down his weak, wounded noise, or held him as he was exhausted and panting, when the air rushed back between them.

Michael expected Adam to beg again, to plead once more for Michael to stay with him. Adam had looked up at him, blue eyes dark, and he curled fingers in Michael’s hair.

“Your house is burning, Michael,” Adam said, surprising him. His voice was rough as his breaths calmed, but his words were clear. “He’s going after Raphael.”

-*-


There are many Heavens. The Heavens of mortals between which angels can pass, and the Heavens of the Host where they were breathed into life, trained, and lingered before the mortals extended the branches of Heaven. These had been empty and cold for millennia as the angels settled within the warmer, animated realities of their mortal charges. At the highest peaks, there is one Heaven behind a door that only four have stood within since the beginning of understanding.

The door had closed before the first civil war in Heaven ended, clicking shut one day without ceremony or recognition, and only after Gabriel vanished did Raphael and Michael realise the door was actually sealed, that if God was indeed inside, there was no speaking to him now.

That room held the highest seat in Heaven and who ever held the throne held the Kingdom.

With Lucifer’s fall and Gabriel’s desertion, the four keys required to enter had been lost.

But there was one angel that had come dangerously close to opening the door again and reclaiming that high seat.

Sariel had been to Raphael as Raphael had been a comrade, confidante, and first lieutenant to Michael.

He’d left Raphael lying in a pool of her own blood, grace brimming between her fingers where Sariel had torn her name from her and, with it, her mantle and forgotten abilities as a Healer. On the floor of Mary Winchester’s Heaven, the living room carpet grew dark beneath her and Raphael was surprised at the shadow that fell across her face.

“Well. Now I have a dilemma.” Balthazar looked over the felled archangel, then back at Sam and Dean’s mother who had summoned him. “Are you sure you want me to do this?”

Mary had shook her head, blonde curls bouncing with the movement. Her hands were still bloody from where they had tried to stem Raphael’s wound.

“Nobody is dying in my Heaven.”

Balthazar had sighed and Raphael thought this woman was foolish. She had no idea what Raphael had done to Balthazar to bleed information for Castiel’s strategy. If Castiel had not found them in the end, she may have succeeded in breaking him.

She was surprised, for the second time, when Balthazar kneeled down and she growled at the hand that reached for her.

“Don’t touch me, insect.”

“Michael didn’t betray you.”


Raphael stared at him in shock. Of all the ways he could have persuaded her to let him keep his hands, that was not one of the things she had expected he would say, and the surprise must have showed in her face.

“Do you want to see your brother again?” Balthazar asked her, expression stern.

Sariel had taken Raphael’s blade. Raphael would not get her revenge from oblivion.

Balthazar’s grip was firm and strong as he helped her stand. Mary only hesitated a moment when Balthazar extended his hand for her to join them and her eyes slid shut as Balthazar guided Raphael’s grace to her soul.

-*-


It’s frustrating that Dean doesn’t wait for him, winding ahead through the labyrinth, but Michael doesn’t expect to get lost.

He turns the corner, only the space of a few heartbeats behind Dean, and finds himself abruptly alone.

“Dean?”

He turns on the spot, looks back the way he had come. The sun shines mockingly bright and kind on every bend of the tall, green hedges, but Dean is nowhere in sight. He peers around the two visible corners in the labyrinth and draws back after finding nothing.

This was strange.

What was Gabriel’s venture in this?

He hears the quiet steps on the gravel a moment before he thinks, ah, he’s not alone after all, but the stride isn’t Dean and the steps are too light.

He looks back just as Lucifer rounds the corner and draws up, looking just as surprised to see him.

They stare at each other for a moment and it’s unnerving, Michael finally realises, that there are no insects, nor the call of birdsong, to break the silence.

“I lost Sam,” Lucifer finally says, reluctantly.

Michael nods slowly and looks to the path ahead. It looked as good as any.

“I lost Dean,” he admits. That seemed to be happening a lot today.

He gestures for Lucifer to take the lead, but Lucifer shakes his head with an involuntary almost-smile and motions for Michael to go first. It’s absurdly polite and against Michael’s better judgment, he finally acquiesces, allowing Lucifer to fall into step behind him.

Was there more afoot here? If Gabriel had intended for him and Dean to search as a team and their escape from this maze was somehow predicated on them staying together, Michael wouldn’t put it past him to separate them just for fun. Some things with Gabriel never changed.

“Have you received any revelation for Gabriel’s intention?” Michael asks over his shoulder.

It takes so long for the response to come that he thinks Lucifer has so quickly been lost as well, but when he looks back, Lucifer is only a few paces behind, his expression downcast and thoughtful.

“If his intention is to keep me here, wandering forever, he’ll be disappointed,” Lucifer says, “This is no cage.”

Michael sighs. He’s not one to roll his eyes, but he understands the exasperation as he waits for Lucifer to catch up to him.

“Walk with me,” he says and starts again with Lucifer at his side, the shorn hedges brushing his arm. “Do you really think after all that you and Gabriel went through these last years that he would cross you now?”

“If it’s Gabriel, I wouldn’t put anything past him. I taught him everything he knows.”

“No, not everything,” Michael easily counters. “Where do you think he learned to trust? Not from you.”

“And not from you, either,” Lucifer murmurs, that same, innocent not-smile on his face when Michael glances a dark look at him.

“I don’t want to fight with you, Lucifer.”

“That boy really changed you.” It doesn’t sound like a compliment.

Michael sighs, he won’t rise to this… he won’t –

“Are you saying you haven’t changed for Sam? Or Gabriel?”

“If I’ve changed at all, it’s been for myself,” Lucifer answers, easily.

They stop at another intersection, consider the fork in the road and head down the left path.

“Well, no one complains that you’ve ended your campaign for hell on Earth.”

“Or that you decided to let the humans live.”

“… It wasn’t really a choice.”

“I know: genocide is too passé.”

Michael stops walking as the path opens to a small courtyard, the first they’ve encountered. There’s a small, stone water feature at the centre, trickling quiet and soothing from its spout.

“Are you calling me selfish? You’ve taken Sam and Gabriel.”

Lucifer gives him a knowing smile.

“At least I don’t deceive myself. I wanted them more than the apocalypse.”

“… I gave up everything—“

“No, Michael, you just gave up.”

Lucifer weaves through the smaller border of hedges around the fountain and dips his fingers into the shallow pool.

“I didn’t give up,” Michael says.

“You weren’t alone in that cage, you know. I saw you. I felt you. You weren’t built to withstand that cold. God is dead. To you, we’re dead. I know you just needed a reason, but that boy isn’t enough for you.”

“And I should be more like you? Collect as many that would have me?”

“I love Sam. I love Gabriel.” Lucifer says it as though Michael hasn’t heard it a hundred times before.

“I love Adam.” Michael shrugs, not knowing where Lucifer is going with this.

“Didn’t you hear me?” Lucifer shakes his head. “You don’t love that boy, you needed him. You still need him.”

Michael frowns.

“I don’t understand your distinction.”

“I told him what you did. I told him about the two of you – in the beginning, and then in the cage.”

How was it possible to feel like he was falling without taking flight?

Michael stares at Lucifer for a long time, stung with the betrayal and surprised to realise he may have expected differently from Lucifer, even after all this time.

“Why would you do that?” he still asks, voice hushed.

Lucifer shrugs.

“You should have told him, but I knew you wouldn’t. A past like yours isn’t one you can keep secret, Michael.”

“That wasn’t your call to make!”

“A world without lies isn’t too much to ask for, is it? For the righteous son, you lie too easily. What sort of foundation is that?”

Michael glares as Lucifer tears off a small branch from the hedge and slowly strips its leaves.

“What did you do to him?”

“I gave him nothing but the truth. If it’s any consolation, he’s not a fan of me either, right now.”

“That’s no consolation; don’t say it like you’re sorry.”

“I am sorry for you, because you still don’t know the difference, Michael. I had to learn. Adam is just a boy, but it could have been anyone – you just needed a reason! If all you needed was a new purpose, you could have chosen anyone.”

Lucifer seldom shouts and even now his voice has dropped to a soft plea, begging Michael to understand, but this is more devastating than if Lucifer had shaken him.

Michael slowly shakes his head.

“No.”

That might have been true once, but he honestly believes that Adam was his now and the rite they had undertaken before Adam lost his memory, before the Adam of this present time was lost, was irreversible.

“It couldn’t have been just anyone, Lucifer… you and I had our chance. We chose to fight.”

“You chose Dad.” Lucifer doesn’t miss a beat and Michael is relieved that his brother understands what they’re talking about.

“I chose loyalty. You should have done the same.”

“And what did it get you? How did he reward you? We’re just the same now. We were grasping, but now we can live.” Lucifer huffs an incredulous chuckle. “I barely even understand what that means yet, but we get to find out!”

But this is an old argument and Michael is not having it again. Lucifer was right on one point: there was little reward for loyalty now.

“I love you, Lucifer,” he says, quietly, “but we chose to fight. We chose other people. You don’t love them any less than I love Adam, at least give me that.”

Lucifer chuckles, a soft and resigned sound. He tosses the thin, stripped branch into the fountain.

“Love isn’t needy, Michael. It doesn’t cling, it leaves us to make our own decisions, and it gives freely. They made me remember that. Maybe if you remembered, too, you wouldn’t be so afraid of losing Adam.”

He wonders if Lucifer knows that Adam is from another time, that Adam was broken from the cage only days ago and came to Michael here.

“Lucifer,” Michael starts slowly, “There is something pulling Adam out of this space and time. Can you look at me now and swear to me that you have never and will never try to take him from me?”

Lucifer blinks at him, looking curiously puzzled.

“Honestly, I can tell you it isn’t me. But it sounds like you have a dilemma.”

Michael sighs and finally decides to leave this courtyard. Their dilemma? That was an understatement.

He needs to get back to Adam.

“This was a good talk,” Lucifer says, brightly and Michael thinks he sounds obnoxious. “Just think about what I said.”

“Being in a three-way doesn’t make you an expert on these things. And mind your own business.”

Lucifer clucks his tongue and tilts his head with a welcome shrug.

“But if you ever need-“

“I’ll ask you.”

-*-


“Why isn’t the sun moving?” Sam moans at the sky, because, seriously, how was he supposed to navigate without the sun moving from its highest point? “Gabriel, some of us have things to do!”

Like money to earn, a mortgage to pay off, and brothers to talk down from doing anything – everything – stupid.

He’d lost Lucifer what felt like hours ago, turned the corner and found himself alone. He’d doubled back, but even the path behind him looked changed and nothing answered his calls. At some point, he had to admit that he was lost.

It strikes him that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been truly alone.

There was always somebody hovering at his shoulder, somebody in the other room, or just down the phone line.

This labyrinth was quiet and it made him nervous.

What did Gabriel want? Sam thought they were past these pranks.

Every row of hedges looks like the last and Sam’s feet are aching in their boots when the scenery finally changes.

He stumbles around another corner and gapes at the courtyard that opens in front of him.

The courtyard with its row of hedges, a stone bench, and a slow, swirling nebula in black space beyond it, as though the labyrinth just ended and somebody had put in a viewing deck to the universe.

It’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. It was nothing like the small nebulae spotted through those observatory telescopes when he was a kid on that rare outing John had surprised him with when a job had taken them close enough. His chest had burned with excitement and the gratitude he didn’t think anything could ever compare to again. God, he’d loved his dad that night.

Sam staggers towards the stone bench, his harsh breaths ringing in his ears and he’s grateful for somewhere to sit. The nebula is a branching spiral of blues and greens like clouds and smoke in the dark and Sam wonders if it’s real or just a figment of Gabriel’s imagination.

It looks close enough to touch, but he holds his hand back and the longer Sam stares, seeking the veins of detail in every filament, the more still he becomes, humbled by this miracle of nature.

Fake or not, the sense of peace that settles over Sam is very, very real. He had no idea how much he needed this.

Thank you, he prays.

-*-


Dean is pretty sure that Michael deserted him.

He doesn’t know how the featherhead managed that when Dean had checked behind every corner and even watched the awesome spectacle of Michael trying to fly out – disappearing only to bounce back into vision with a too-human sprawl in the grass somewhere further down the path. That could have entertained him for at least another twenty minutes.

At least.

When he first sees Castiel, Dean thinks he’s imagined it. But this isn’t the desert, there are no mirages here, and he’s the first human-shaped figure Dean’s seen since Michael in what feels like over an hour.

“Cas?” Dean doubles back, thinks he sees Castiel turn to the sound of his voice, frowning, but when Dean ducks his head around the corner there’s nothing but hedges.

Dean looks both ways. Huh.

The next time he sees Castiel, Dean is ready for it.

The angel is at the end of the path almost ten yards from Dean when he rounds the corner. Castiel’s arms are hanging by his sides and he’s peering up at the sky in the same patient, analytical way that Michael had before he started tumbling out of the garden walls.

Dean brightens, seeing his familiar profile, and quickly starts toward him.

“Cas! Hey!”

Castiel’s gaze falls from the sky and Dean thinks the angel’s heard him, but instead of Dean, Castiel regards the cross-section of open paths ahead of him. Castiel looks to his hands like he should see something there and Dean recognises that doubtful frown.

“Cas? Hey, buddy, wait up!” Dean calls, quickening his stride to a jog when Castiel still shows no indication of hearing him.

Why was Cas being such a dick today? Well, more than usual.

Castiel looks between the two paths on either side of him. Dean comes to a stop just a few paces away and feels something sink in his stomach because Castiel won’t look at him.

Castiel’s frown deepens at the path to his left and, when he finally faces Dean, he looks right through him.

“… Cas?” Dean steps forward tentatively. He waves a hand in front of Castiel’s face and that horrible sinking feeling plummets when the angel shows no reaction. Dean checks behind him for whatever seems to be holding Castiel’s attention, sees nothing, and looks back into his friend’s narrowed expression of concentration. “Hey. Hey, man, tell me you can see me.”

In response, Castiel looks towards the path to his right and decides to go left.

Dean sticks right on his heels, the angel’s trench coat brushing his side as it billows and it surprises Dean how fast Castiel could walk when nobody else was watching. It actually surprises him more that Castiel was still walking at all, but he’s concerned that at any second the angel’s going to take flight again, leaving Dean to search for another hour or two before he has any company to speak of.

If Castiel’s here it means he found a way into Gabriel’s labyrinth, which means there’s a way out.

Castiel can lead them out… if only he’ll look at Dean.

“Cas, can’t you hear me?” Dean snaps, matching the angel’s stride.

Castiel studies the border of the grassy path beneath their feet, lips pursed in thought.

“Cas, hey!” Dean smacks his shoulder. His hand passes right through and he rears back in surprise. He stares at his hands, turning them over, and he thinks Gabriel has pulled something above his ordinary standards of weird.

When he looks up, Castiel has already put a significant length of distance between them.

“… Cas?” Dean wonders aloud, feeling a flood of relief when Castiel stops and looks back over his shoulder, face full of suspicion. Dean’s smile wavers and he raises his hand as though it would help the angel spot him. “Hey!”

But Castiel’s expression closes, he looks forward once again and by the time Dean’s moved himself from crushed to indignant, the angel’s disappeared.

Dean’s fists ball at his sides.

“Get your ass back here, you dick!” he shouts at the sky. “Cas!”

Predictably, nothing comes of it.

-*-


Every single video Adam and Gabriel watch is another testimony of something that went horribly wrong, or a note to his future self of the day’s lesson learned, sometimes at the cost of new bandages, splints, or a bottle of pills that Adam shoved out of view after popping what looked like double the recommended dosage.

There’s no editing. There’s no post-production here.

The worst videos are those where Adam seems to have forgotten he’s hit the record button at all, that he’s supposed to be documenting something constructive from the recent trials. Instead, the off-centre video feed shows Adam slumped in his chair, knuckle brushing back and forth over his lips, searching for some reason to what sometimes seemed senseless, Gabriel told him. In other videos, Adam’s attention was far away, searching the far wall in the longest case for a full minute of silence before he reached up and just slammed the laptop shut.

Sam and Dean are in some of the videos, too, but they don’t seem to know that Adam is recording.

During one of the videos, Adam was halfway through recounting Castiel’s suspicion that Balthazar had been abducted by Raphael when Sam and Dean barrelled through the motel door. Dean was moaning in agony, arm slung over Sam’s shoulder as Sam set him down on one of the beds and shouted for Adam to grab the med-kit.

Gabriel looks at him in surprise when Adam stops at video eleven and skips ahead to number twenty.

“Uh, I think you might have missed some, kid—“

“I’m seeing a whole lot of shit, Gabriel. But we’re all still together. Better than together – we’ve come over the Goddamn rainbow, so I want to see something that shows me what the hell we all stuck around for.”

Another video starts, the picture jumping as though the camera or laptop was being held while in motion and it’s the first video that’s shown the outside of a motel room.

It’s a car park and it looks like dawn.

The picture lowers near the ground and steadies as it sets on someone’s knee. The camera is spun around to show what looks like a small barrel of fireworks on a doormat.

“If you bail when they come out to kill us, I’m nailing your wings to the wall.”

Adam recognises his own voice.

“Is that it?” comes the sly retort and when the camera spins again, it becomes clear that it’s Gabriel’s hands fixing the last of the fuses. He smirks at Adam holding the camera, then directly into the lens. “Going old school for my buddy here. Doesn’t realise what he’s costing me in face time with his brother.”

“I remember this,” Gabriel says brightly. “That was a good day.”

Adam rolls his eyes and closes that video, too.

“Adam, what you’re looking for isn’t going to be here. You wouldn’t carry it with you on hunts and nobody actually records their emo heart-to-hearts.”

Adam scowls at the archangel sitting on the bed beside him.

“What the hell am I supposed to think? I saw my mom in Heaven, there are angels in my house that I don’t remember buying, I’m a doctor of a town I don’t remember moving to, I have brothers that I’ve never even heard of, and there’s a bunch of psychopaths in my backyard! One of them even thinks he’s with me!” He points at the accused laptop. “I thought I was in love with him? Seriously? After everything he put me through?”

Gabriel sighs.

“Don’t make me repeat myself, man, but there were things that weren’t on that video—“

“Like what? Like when he tried to tear his name out of my soul and almost killed both of us? Like when he set a trap for Sam and Dean and almost erupted Yellowstone? Or maybe like the fact I was so in over my head I was making him drink my blood because he couldn’t wear us?”

“No—“

“What the fuck, Gabriel? It doesn’t make sense!”

Gabriel actually pushes his shoulder, a hard shove to get his attention.

“Would you shut the hell up and let me talk? Honestly, you would never believe I used to be a voice that made Mary sit up and listen.”

“Tell me how this makes sense!”

“You loved him! I don’t know why, but when you came back...." Gabriel glances away like he's doing a calculation. "You came from here. You were already in love. Adam, you don’t know what it does to us when we share our names: we feel everything you feel and we can’t turn it off. You were such a persistent pain in the ass and you had me to keep you alive this time, it was a war of attrition.”

Adam slackens in disbelief, remembering a crack Dean made about their initial strategy to stop the apocalypse when they first met in Bobby’s house.

“Why? Why would I love that and… you’re trying to tell me love saved the world?”

“I’m an archangel, not a mind reader. Love dumbed down the generals, thanks to you knuckleheads.”

“What, that’s your final answer? Love?” Adam can’t believe that’s all there was to it. There’s always something more and it was too neat, too simple.

Gabriel shrugs. He looks tired.

“All you need is….”

“I’m not buying it.”

Gabriel rolls his eyes with exasperation when Adam pushes off from the bed and follows him downstairs.

“Where are you going?”

“To get some answers. Fuck, I can’t believe I almost slept with him.”

“Michael? Uh, he’s a little busy right now—“

“Gabriel!” Adam stops just before the back door, body tensed and fists clutched at his sides.

“Adam, kid,” Gabriel warns, “Please don’t push this.”

“Help me.”

Gabriel sighs guiltily when Adam looks back over his shoulder, catching his eye.

“Come on,” Gabriel tries to coax him, pleading.

“You said you’re my best friend. Help me.”

It takes a long moment and a steady staring contest, but Gabriel eventually shakes his head.

“For the record: I thought this was a bad idea.”

Gabriel opens the door for him and Adam walks into a tall garden labyrinth.

What?

He turns back, but the door is gone and he’s alone in the sunny, green-walled path.

That is, until Michael rounds the corner, looking surprised and at the same time relieved to see him.

Those videos flash through Adam’s mind, all the wounds, haggard looks, and his brother’s tight faces of pain compounded in seconds. He charges up the path’s incline towards the archangel.

“Adam—“

Adam throws off the hands Michael reaches for him and shoves him hard in the chest. Michael stumbles back too few disappointing steps, looking confused.

“What—?“

“You’re a Goddamn liar! You let me sit at that stupid table and eat out of your hand believing a fantasy!”

Adam sees the moment Michael understands, expression going slack. Adam sees his regret and Michael’s solution, for some reason, is to try reaching for him again. Adam shoves his hands away violently.

“It wasn’t a lie. Listen to me: it was for your own good – if you had remembered –“

Adam barks a laugh.

“Remembered what? How you tortured me into being a puppet, how you used my hands to kill? Or how about how you and Lucifer stuck us with flesh-eating barbed wire, set us as bombs against each other, or how you tore and burned us alive? Sam and I were alive!”

Michael’s expression is sombre. He keeps his hands to himself.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for that, I’m not that person anymore and I know there’s nothing I can say to compensate for what we did, but if I hadn’t asked Castiel to seal those memories—“

Adam baulks.

“Castiel? He was in on this, too? Wait a minute, wait a minute… did everybody know but me?”

“You have to stop thinking about it, Adam, it’ll bring those memories closer to the surface; it’s just the past, but they could kill you.”

“Your past is still my present, you jackass.”

He came here for answers, but Michael’s placid condescension was making it really hard to see reason, or want anything more than to punch that stupid, false, handsome face.

“Just take a deep breath and calm—“

“I want you to take your name back.”

Michael goes completely still and his voice drops.

“What?”

“Enough of this bull! I want you out of here and you said you can’t fly home without it, so take it!”

Michael looks stunned, horrified, though everything was so subtle about him that Adam was willing to dismiss it altogether.

“I – no. I can’t.” Michael’s voice is a low, hurt sound and it infuriates him.

“I’m giving it to you!” Adam shouts and that’s when Lucifer rounds the corner.

At first, Adam’s instinct is to back down, people shouldn’t have an audience when they’re at this volume, but then he remembers these aren’t people, these are the things that held him down and tore into him, watching with abstract fascination every time his soul felt like it was imploding at the slightest touch.

This is Lucifer, who, maybe as some sort of penance, has given him a way out.

The sounds Adam forms are butchered and awkward, but from the way Michael’s eyes widen, he seems to recognise the first syllables of his true name easily enough.

His hand immediately clamps over Adam’s mouth before Adam even registers that he’s moved.

“Don’t,” Michael pleads, “Don’t do this.”

God, his eyes were gorgeous. Adam wants to tear them out.

“Knock him out,” Lucifer pipes in helpfully for his brother after Adam pushes unsuccessfully against Michael’s chest and pulls at his hands.

“Be quiet,” Michael snaps over his shoulder. Adam stomps on Michael’s foot, shoving against his elbows, which just earns him an exasperated look that twists into earnest plea. “Stop it. Please.”

He glares, breathing harshly through his nose and understanding slowly crosses Michael’s features. Adam is still pushing at his arms when the archangel draws up, shoulders pushing back, his hands loosening over Adam’s mouth and the back of his head.

“I’ll leave. All right? We’ll leave,” Michael amends, catching the glance Adam spares for Lucifer over his shoulder. “Right, Lucifer?”

Lucifer shrugs.

“I don’t even live here. Sam has to work on the other side of the country tomorrow, anyway.”

Michael looks back at Adam hesitantly.

“We’re leaving. I’m going to remove my hands, but don’t – don’t say my name. If you lose it, it could kill you.”

Adam’s been there, he’s done that, and from what he remembers, there were worse things than dying. He nods anyway and drags in a deep, unsteady breath after Michael carefully pulls his hands back.

“Why did you do it?” Adam asks sharply.

“Give you my name?” Michael frowns.

“Why didn’t you just take your name back in the war? You could have forced me. You’ve done that before.”

Something raw flinches in Michael’s expression and suddenly Lucifer shoulders past him, nudging his brother’s arm. Lucifer is not that much taller, but the way he holds himself makes him appear to tower and Adam abruptly remembers that this is the devil staring him down.

“It’s a choice, Adam, like I told you. You had to be there to understand.” Lucifer’s voice is cold. “We’re leaving.”

Michael’s face is drawn as he looks from Lucifer to Adam, but he eventually follows Lucifer down the shallow hill. He hesitates at the bend and Adam looks away before Michael can catch him watching. When he looks up, they’re gone.

So much for answers.

He reaches for the hedge, sagging against it, but then keeps falling and flails for a moment before he lands on the couch in his living room and realises he’s back.

Gabriel is there waiting for him.

“So?”

Adam opens his hand and finds a palm full of torn-off leaves. Their sap smears stickily between his fingers.

“He’s leaving.”

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