A/N: This is just an Au where Adam survives the ghouls and gets taken in by his brothers. I ended up with powers!Adam (because that's just the way my mind rolls _) so it's about as AU as AU can get. Still, enjoy!
Family By Half
When he was eight, one of the neighbours' dogs contracted rabies. Adam had been in school when the dog got loose, wrecking havoc on his street. He remembers stepping off that bus, watching it pull away with a hopeless feeling that something was wrong just before he heard the growls.
He remembers running up the street screaming for help, hoping he wasn't going to get eaten. Adam thinks he remembers the smell of the dog's breath- rancid and sour- on the back of his neck but the panic from that day and this very second is identical.
Standing here with Sam, the windows and doors salted against anything trying to get in- or out- feels exactly like that day he ran down the street and prayed that someone would save him from the monster.
Adam wants to scream now, as something bangs against the cupboards in the kitchen but Sam's not screaming and he's pretty sure John Winchester didn't ever scream. He wants to shake and tremble in fear but that's nothing like John and Adam really needs to be more like his dad right now.
For Sam, if not for himself.
Sam and Dean (his brothers, holy shit) think he's asleep when they start in on one another. Sam's been pretty cool about Adam's existence but there's something not quite right about him. It makes his stomach tighten with worry and his palms slick with fear.
Praise from Sam makes him feel light-headed with pride and nauseous with worry.
Dean just makes him feel sad. Horrible. As if Adam could have missed the look in his eyes as he picked up the picture of John or the snap of anger, resentment and jealousy the older man just poured into the air since their arrival.
Adam wants to open his mouth and apologize for even breathing but he's a fucking pre-med. He knows the reproductive organs and their functions like he does the back of his hand and Dean's fragile ego and ruined childhood don't factor in anywhere between the sperm and the egg.
"He didn't even mention us, Sam!" Dean spits the words like acid. "What was he ashamed of?"
Adam remembers the shocked looks on his brother's faces in that diner and wonders the exact same thing.
He's got scars all down his wrists from the ghouls and two sets of bite marks on his arm and shoulder. Sam's time with the ghouls barely left a mark but Adam looks like the survivor of way too many failed suicide attempts. He looks like a moron; everyone and their grandmother knows that if you really want to get the job done you cut up, not across.
Adam figures Papa Ghoul didn't have the time to teach his kids that one and that maybe his dad- their dad- had more in common with his hunt than he ever knew.
'A failed suicide attempt is really just a cry for help,' he thinks darkly, picking at the scabs as Dean takes another draw from his bottle of Southern Comfort and Sam disappears into the night for another walk.
There's far more to hunting than salt, holy water and shooting straight. Adam likes repeating the Latin over and over until it's like a river-smooth rock, ready and seamless in the palm of his hand.
He doesn't like the grave digging- who does?- and the sight of his first mangled body makes him vomit until his eyes water and his lungs burn. He's never liked the feel of death- the emptiness and the pain made medicine the perfect field for someone like him, for someone as sensitive as Adam.
Sam buys him a shot of tequila to 'wash his mouth out with' while Dean makes sure it's the only shot he gets.
In Idaho, Sam keeps Dean away from the Rawhead, hovering like an overly annoying bug and secretly panicking enough that it distracts Adam from the hunt. He breaks his first bone that night, falling down the basement stairs with a whole lot of bumps and one nasty sounding crunch.
Sam hits the Rawhead with the taser, his finger on the trigger until the smell of burning flesh fills the house. Dean flies down over the stairs, shouting for Adam with unfettered panic. The taser is still in his hand.
"I didn't let go of my gun." He says, mostly to keep from screaming as Dean feels his way around his broken wrist.
"Jesus, kid. I could care less about the fucking gun!" Dean snaps, making Adam look straight into his eyes. "Did you hit your head?"
"What didn't I hit?"
"Is he okay?" Sam calls, already thumping down the stairs to squat next to Dean. Adam doesn't know why he hates the way they tower over him like this. It makes him feel weak, different. He pulls himself up before anyone can make him lie still, hoping he's not about to throw up all over his brothers' boots.
"I broke my ulna." Adam says woefully, with a grimace of pain. Dean jerks in surprise before letting out a small laugh.
"Geez, there's two of you." He grabs the back of Adam's jacket, pulling them all up the stairs and past the burning corpse of the Rawhead. "Broken bones mean a hospital visit. How'd you like to be Jimmy Tyler tonight?"
Demonic possessions are the worst.
Adam's never seen Hell, never even thought about it until the girl's eyes go black, like dull beads, and she smiles in a way that makes him shake a little. Inside, she feels like panic, pain and fire, the scent of sulphur so overwhelming it makes his eyes water.
They throw buckets of holy water on her, listening to the sizzle as she wails and curses at them in what Adam is pretty sure isn't Latin or English or even the little bit of Spanish he knows.
The hairs on the back of his neck stand up in that clichéd warning as she spies him standing off in the corner, just watching. Between Sam and himself her eyes flicker before she starts chuckling in glee.
Her amusement feels oily and wrong.
"So many secrets between kin here, Dean. You're all so pathetic I wonder why Lilith hasn't wiped you off this doomed little plane of existence yet. Half a man," she nods at Dean.
"Half a human," for Sam, who's face tightens in anger. His eyes seem darker in the poorly lit room.
"Half a brother." She spits at Adam. He lets go of the breath he was holding, terrified she was about to reveal his only secret.
Dean's got his eyes on Sam, his face hard and cold. Adam digs deeper and finds nothing but worry, fear and desperation. The tension between them is something Adam has yet to breech or even understand but the doubt of Sam's humanity is far too easy for him to think on.
The moments after Sam kills the demon with the power of his mind alone, Adam crowds up close to Dean, ignoring the irritation he feels from his oldest brother and whispers "When he does this, he doesn't feel like Sam anymore."
The skin around Dean's eyes and mouth tighten as he says, "I know."
Adam hates the taste of fear.
After the possession, Adam has a word for the strange feeling of foreboding settling into the air.
"What's wrong?" Sam asks as they wait for Dean to pay for the gas. Adam's standing outside, stretching his legs in the sun. The backseat isn't the most comfortable place to spend ten hours of the day.
"Something's going to happen, isn't it?" He asks, because no matter how scary Sam gets he's brutally honest with him. Adam figures he might be the cause of some of that indescribable tension between his brothers.
"Why do you say that?" Sam asks but there's none of the stark truth in his tone anymore. He's guarded and suspicious. Adam shrugs.
"Can't you feel it in the air? It's...heavy."
He can tell the conversation is unnerving Sam by the way his eyes shift and flicker, like shadows in the bright light of the day. Then Dean's striding back across the pavement and the tension in the air isn't just from whatever's waiting for them out there but what's happening right here.
They stop at a small motel for the night; Dean's too tired to drive, although he'll never admit it and Sam's twitchy in the passenger's seat, like he's had seven cups of coffee and a jumbo pack of pixie sticks all by himself.
Motel beds remind Adam of his dorm room, small and cramped and uncomfortable as Hell but Sam and Dean slip into something almost easy and home-like when they stop for the night. Sam goes for a burger run that lasts far longer than it should- but if Dean doesn't do more than clean his guns and scowl at the bedspread, Adam's not sure what he can do either. The hummingbird on cocaine feelings he gives off when he returns makes Adam's heart pound.
Dean's hamburger is slathered in bacon and cheese, steadily dripping grease onto to wax paper his brother has spread across his side of the table. Adam bites his tongue, thinking of statistics for heart disease and cholesterol intake at thirty-one.
Sam eats like he's afraid someone is going to swoop in and steal the fries right out from under his fingers. He reminds Adam of that one time Mitch dared him to smoke a blunt and made him do a snack-run for being the newbie- how everyone dug in like it was their last meal.
Sitting between them, with his regular-sized cheeseburger and curly fries, Adam feels too normal. Too different.
In the middle of the night Dean takes off, muttering something about a bar down the road and someone he has to meet. Sam's mouth is grim and angry as he watches his brother leave- Adam wonders why they never go anywhere together- before he grabs his phone and hides himself in the bathroom, locking the door.
Adam checks the salt lines, shifts the hex bags around and grabs a book to read before falling into his bed- the one farthest from the doors or windows. He doesn't like to go to sleep without everyone present and accounted for anymore but he's never said those words out loud and his brothers are the best mind readers around.
He doesn't know he's fallen asleep until the creepy pressure of eyes on him makes Adam want to flinch in discomfort. He peeks out at the darkened room, his hand already under the pillow and gripping the knife there.
Sam's staring down at him- gigantic freak is tall enough to do that while sitting on a sagging motel bed- his face almost clinical. "What are you?"
Adam blinks in honest confusion. "I'm your brother." He says, suddenly aware of the replacement of who with what and just what that means in this new world of scary, impossible things.
He can almost hear the thought 'like that means anything these days' but the relief he feels is not his own as Sam goes back to sleep.
Adam spends a lot of time bouncing back and forth between Uncle Bobby's and the backseat of the impala like the messed up orphan of a hunter that he is. Bobby's place is a mess but the old, gruff hunter himself is exactly what Adam needs after another hunt with his brothers.
"Shoot anything?" He asks as the Impala kicks up the gravel of his dusty driveway. Adam shrugs and smiles into the fabric of his hoodie, feeling the way Bobby's trying to see John in him. Adam wants him to see John in him, just once.
"It was a ghost. Just rock salt rounds. Kind of like playing Whack-A-Mole."
"Got the ghost?" He asks, because that's really all that matters in Adam's life now. Did you get it? Do you get it? Can you get it? He wonders what will happen if he says no. He wonders if John ever said no.
"Yes." He doesn't tell him about the fifteen stitches he put on Sam's right shoulder or the broken ribs Dean's run off with, taped up like he's some kind of kid's teddy bear.
He's been at the Salvage Yard for nearly two weeks when he first hears the word 'apocalypse'. He's at the top of the stairs- Bobby still doesn't know he climbs up the pipes near his window to get back in sometimes- when there's a crash down in the library.
Dean's pissed again. His anger is hot and fast, quickly cooling to a steamy resentment Adam's come to get used to. Dean always feels so guilty that the anger is a welcome change.
Sam's is different.
Adam knows anger- how it burns hot and bright in his head- like the center of a flame. When Sam gets angry he gets cold. He's a like a black hole, sucking up light and heat until there's nothing left but Sam's strange fury.
"You can't just leave the boy here and go off charging to your deaths," Bobby says darkly. "What do I tell him when you don't come back? When the sky goes dark and starts raining blood?"
"The truth." Sam replies like maybe it's the simplest thing ever.
"What, that the two of you are so damn set in your ways you're willing to walk into Hell, even if it means you'll die?" Bobby asks harshly. "This is suicide and both of you idjits know it."
"We're down to the last six Seals, Bobby." Dean snaps and Adam doubts that he's talking about some messed up show at Sea World. "Lilith's going full speed on this now that the finish line's in sight- you want us to just sit back on our asses and let the world go to Hell? You want us to take Adam with us?"
"I ain't letting you take him anywhere with your minds like this!" Bobby snarls and the surprise Adam feels isn't quite all his own. "I'm just saying if you're so set in your ways on this, say goodbye. Don't pull the same fucking thing Johnny did on the both of you."
"We don't leave until tomorrow." Sam adds softly. "We'll figure out something to tell him."
"Yeah," Dean agrees and Adam can tell he's already trying to think of a lie that won't hurt him. "You'll watch out for him? If we don't- if we can't stop it?"
Bobby fidgets, playing with the brim of his pig hat. "God damn it, boys you know I will. Just like I watched out for the two of you and look how well that turned out."
"You did good by us, Bobby- for all that we let you." Sam says, standing up. "Just take care of him for us."
"Just come back alive and we'll all be alright."
Dean smiles- Adam can feel it on the air. "We're coming back. We've got family waiting for us."
Adam sneaks back into his room, pushing the door as close to closed as possible. Sam and Dean are climbing up the stairs, sure and determined to leave him behind- just like John. He should have known- Winchester means cursed in his life now but Adam can't shake the horrible sinking feeling that he'll be the only one left to know that soon enough.
All though the dinner Bobby cooks up like it's a celebration instead of a last meal, Adam wants to hit something. They're all talking about old times, keeping eye contact as if that makes everything okay- as if Sam and Dean aren't gearing up to leave him just like everyone else.
Dean tells him about the time Sam touched a cursed rabbit's foot while Sam fires back about finding Dean dressed up in Linder Hosen like a full-blown Hansel doll.
"You're the one with the knack for always getting kidnapped!" Dean howls in outrage, although this is the happiest anyone's ever seen him since coming back from Hell. There's a lot he doesn't understand about his brothers. Adam can't imagine it- day in, day out nothing but torture and pain. He can't understand how anyone would put themselves through that.
When Sam gleefully points, "At least I didn't scream like a girl because of a cat!" Adam looks around the table and thinks that, maybe, he understands why.
Dean pulls one of the old cell phones from the Impala's trunk and presses it into his hand quickly. It looks vaguely familiar in that same way that every cell phone does.
"We'll call you," He says, not looking at his youngest brother. "As soon as we can."
Sam claps him on the shoulder and the fury of being left behind, the misery and the grief, turn into a frantic belief in them. That Sam and Dean will stop the End of the World.
"Just come back." He says, pocketing the phone with shaking fingers.
Bobby stands next to him on the porch as they watch Sam and Dean ride off into the sunrise for one more hunt. Bobby sighs and adjusts his hat for the hundredth time.
"Ever since I've known you Winchesters, I ain't been nothing but a glorified babysitter."
The bitterness and belief in that statement, hidden in the gruff, wry twist of his words makes Adam frown.
"That's not true." He says turning away from the now empty road. "You're family too."
Bobby pauses for a moment, before grumbling about being the more experienced hunter and how was going to get those two chuckleheads out of trouble if it wasn't him?- but Adam could feel the warmth at the idea that family really didn't just mean blood.
Ellen and Jo Harvelle are the toughest looking women he's ever seen. Bobby's Panic Room- Adam secretly like to call the Fallout Shelter- is stored up well enough for the four of them to survive 'everything but the Hand of God himself' the old hunter swears.
"Who's this?" Ellen smiles his way, genuine with just a hint of suspicion. He likes her automatically, seeing the shades of his own mother in her kind eyes.
"Adam Milligan." He answers, because he wants to make a good impression on her. Jo is sulking behind her, carrying a messenger bag and searching the room for more faces.
"He's John's youngest." Bobby adds with a wry quirk of his lips. He's anticipating her reaction.
Ellen's eyes widen in surprise and something like reluctant warmth he feels from Dean pours from her. Jo's eyes are the same dark color as her mother's but harder somehow, bitter.
"Dean's your brother?" She asks, already knowing the answer. Adam wants to move away from the tumble of emotions she's projecting all over the fucking place but he's made of stronger stuff these days. The hormones of one girl aren't enough to make him cringe too much nowadays.
"Yeah. Sam and Dean."
Jo touches the small scar on her forehead at the reminder of the Winchester middle child. Adam wonders what she did to make Sam install that kind of fear in her. He thinks about the dark void of his older brother's anger and wonders if Jo deserved it.
Callous fingertips that smell like leather and smoke shake him from his thoughts. Ellen studies his face like it's Latin, a small smile on her lips.
"Got John's eyes, I see. His chin too, if you ever decide to grow a damn beard."
It feels good to hear that he's his father's son- the growing understanding that he never knew the real John notwithstanding. Between discovering his dad had died to meeting Sam and Dean's disbelief, Adam's been fighting down the urge to scream it from the rooftops. 'John Winchester is my father!'
"What'd you say your name was again? Adam...?" Ellen asks, and the sly, almost playful tone hits him with a start of confusion.
"Milligan?" He hates how it sounds like a question even as she shakes her head.
It's not hard to see what she's doing now and he almost wants to hug her for it. Was the lack of acceptance written across his face or something?
Ellen smiles, wide and open, the corners of her eyes crinkling into crow's feet.
"That's my boy." She says and the pride that fills Adam's chest isn't all his own.
Waiting out the end of the world isn't as stressful as he'd thought it would be.
Although, by the fifth day, the sky does darken, the wind sounds like someone's death screams and Jo freaks out when the bloody rain leaks in under the door; but it's over just quick as it began, with Bobby opening the prison door to a sunrise and chirping bird.
"What's happening?" Jo asks, and the birds take flight. Adam wants to tell her to shut up for a moment. "Is it over?"
Bobby sends him a questioning look and Adam flushes at the idea that maybe Bobby knows he's more than just a regular guy.
"It's not heavy anymore." He offers by way of explanation, shrugging as Jo stares at him.
Ellen puts a calming hand on his shoulder, her smile still just as warm. "We'll wait it out a few more days before taking off. Anyone want a real breakfast?"
Five days of canned beans and undercooked rice, Adam would eat just about anything- until he thinks of home and his mom and amends that thought to anything normal and not beans and rice.
Ellen cooks breakfast with Bobby, laughing at his apron as he blushes and growls about how hard grease is to get out of flannel. There's something there between them, light and bright and airy, that makes Adam want to sit at the scarred kitchen table and bask all day.
"Why aren't you with Dean...and Sam?" Jo asks from her side of the table. "Where did they go to hide out?"
Adam knows there's a little girl under all the hurt and anger she has at the world, but Jo makes it hard to remember that sometimes. Especially when she opens her mouth without thinking.
"They didn't." He says, hoping she'll get the hint. He's got one of John's old cell phones burning a hole in his right pocket, ever since Dean pressed it into his hand and Sam promised they'd call the moment they could. If they could.
"You didn't go with them?" She's angry now, at him. "They're your family."
"Jo!" Ellen snaps from beside the toaster and Adam gets the feeling she's been using that tone of voice for a long time now. Probably since her daughter could talk.
"Adam's their family." Bobby says from his spot at the stove. "That's why he's here."
Jo's silent for the rest of the day, contemplating something. Adam doesn't really care.
He waits all day, but his phone doesn't ring.
The Harvelles stay for another two weeks, watching as the world continues on like it was never dangling over the abyss of destruction. It's surreal, how clueless people are and how Adam was very much one of them- before Sam and Dean.
Ellen offers her place up for visits, hugging him tightly while Jo gives him a fleeting smile. He unnerves her, if only because his last name is sometimes Winchester.
Two weeks turns into three, then four. Adam keeps the cell phone charged, sitting out on the front porch as he waits. Bobby keeps a worried eye on him, if only because he let Dean and Sam get away once before and the consequences of that still haunted him.
Adam stares down the driveway, his heart leaping at any puff of dust or rev of an engine. It's stupid, he knows that, and after almost five weeks of silence maybe it's time to admit the obvious but Bobby's said that Winchester means stubborn and Adam needs to carry that tradition on until he's sure.
"What're you doing, son?" Bobby asks him come sunset. The quiet truce is broken.
"Waiting," Adam answers because it's the truth. He feels like he's been waiting on his family forever though.
"Seems I've been having this conversation with Winchesters too much but don't you think it's time you-"
"Moved on?" Adam snaps, his voice sharper than ever. "Let go? Give up?"
Irritation flares in the older man's face but Adam can feel that strange sense of pride too. "I should have been expecting this."
Adam doesn't get angry often- he knows it doesn't serve much of a purpose when people can just talk shit out- but Bobby's casual acceptance of Sam's and Dean's mortality scares him.
His anger is a lot like Dean's- quick to rise and quick to die. He gestures out at the night.
"It's not heavy anymore but it's not perfect. It's not finished and it never will be. They still have a job to do."
Bobby's ripped to pieces inside; guilt, pity, sympathy and sadness but Adam knows he hasn't given up on the Winchesters either, not yet.
Between them, the phone rings.