Sorry it's been awhile, guys! Between holidays and going back to work for awhile, things got pretty crazy. X.X
Michael tensed, one hand sliding up to brace cautiously against Castiel's shoulder. "The wards you-"
"They only protect us from the demons. I took the others down to let you in." Castiel stepped back, eyes flicking away as he licked his lips. He adjusted his shirt uneasily as he shifted away, and Michael knew he was trying his hardest to look less frustrated than he was that they'd been interrupted.
For once in his life, Michael could feel that Dean wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or relieved. He'd been struggling pretty fiercely between his desire for Cas and his desire to keep Cas all to himself, and though immediacy had taken precedence for the moment Michael could feel him still thinking about it hard, considering. Later, he just might decide he couldn't bear to share him, and Michael wouldn't exactly be surprised. Dean wasn't well known for sharing.
The funniest part though, really, was that as far as things like this went, Dean couldn't have had anyone safer in control of him. Besides the fact that Castiel was his brother, he didn't have the desire to try to take anyone from anyone else. He had enough unattainable as it was already, honestly.
He dressed himself again with a thought, brushed past Cas slightly on his way toward the stairs. "Come on. Come with me. We'll see who it is." He made sure he reached the ground floor first, keeping himself in front of Castiel as he reached out to open the door. On the off chance that it was Zachariah or someone else dangerous, he wanted to be in the line of fire first, a sentiment that he could feel Dean shared. He was certainly no stranger to putting himself between the people he loved and potential danger.
He swung the door open in one quick movement, his blood boiling the minute he saw the man that stood under the porch light. His wings snapped from his shoulders without a thought, arching uncomfortably in the small space. "You. You aren't welcome here. Get the hell out." The words snapped out sharp, crackling with power, and he barely registered the sudden spike in Dean's confusion.
Whoa, hey, I mean, he's annoying but is it really that big a-
"Gabriel?" Castiel's hushed voice came from somewhere just behind Michael's shoulder, and he threw out his arm, catching him across the chest and holding him back, his eyes never leaving the man that now leaned against the doorframe, casually rubbing his nails off on the sleeve of his shirt.
"There's no need to greet him, Castiel. He isn't staying." It came out in a low dangerous murmur, something close to a growl edging up from his throat. "Isn't that right, my dear brother?"
Patience, Dean, until I've dealt with him, please. Don't worry, he isn't staying.
"Actually, I am staying, Michael. I mean, why else would I come all this way?" He smiled, lopsided, his eyebrows quirking up a little as he looked past Michael. "Hey, Castiel. It's good to see you, little brother."
"Don't." Michael cut him off sharply, took another step forward to further block the doorway. His eyes narrowed, vicious. "I told you to leave. I'm not asking."
Gabriel rolled his eyes, stretched empty hands out placatingly. "What's got you so ruffled? So I killed your vessel a few times. I'm sorry. I wouldn't have ever left him like-"
There, he lost his temper. He'd been pretty sure he could keep it in line until he managed to run him off, but the worry in him after Sam's contact with Lucifer was still too sharp, too real, and he snapped, darting forward and taking Gabriel back with him, pinning him hard to the gravel just in front of the house. Gabriel barely had time for his wings to arch out before they hit the ground; it wasn't enough for him to get leverage, and he ended up flapping uselessly a couple times before surrendering, a little bit of honest shock in his eyes.
"Whoa, hey, I just came to help you, but-"
"I don't need your help."
"Don't you? I mean c'mon, bro…this is it." He was earnest, just a little pleading, but Michael absolutely didn't care. "I mean, you already know I was sick of watching our family tear itself apart, and I was gonna sit this one out, too. But then I heard you'd come down here and already taken out Croatoan and I thought, might as well take up with you, try to minimize how much of the family gets killed by helping this go down quick."
"The same way you helped put Sam in the perfect frame of mind to make him vulnerable to Ruby, hm?" His wings flapped angrily, arching higher over his back, blocking the light from the doorway.
Gabriel's eyes widened a little, surprised. "Is that what this is about? Look, you know me! I was just tryin' to teach the guy a lesson, but he's so-"
Michael shook him a little harder than he meant to, knocking his head back hard against the gravel. "You tortured him, Gabriel! Enough was enough, but six months?! Do you have any appreciation what that did to him? What it taught him about the kinds of things he had to be willing to do to make sure that never happened?"
Mike, what the fuck are you-
"Yeah, and I was trying to teach him that-"
"It doesn't matter! You knew he wouldn't change. They never will! All you did was make matters worse, and you had to know it! You were just…screwing with him, just-"
"Geez, can I say I'm sorry? Look, I've got no idea why it's got you so worked up, but-"
"It made all the difference in the world for him, Gabriel, and I had to watch it happen, and every minute of those hundred days and that six months, I was itching to tear you apart." Miraculously, his voice was almost steady. Almost. "And you show up here, offering help?" His hands tightened reflexively against his chest and he pushed back and off before he did any real damage, sweeping back with his wings and landing lightly on his feet, glaring down at him. "Well, you can go to hell. Go, go join our brother for all I care, just get out of my sight."
He jerked a little at Castiel's voice, twitched even harder at the steady grip of his hand against his shoulder, reassuring and restraining. As if he could ever hold him if he really wanted to get away. He cut his eyes back over his shoulder, dimly registered the reproach and shock in those bright blue eyes.
"We could use him. Let me talk to him…explain. About Sam?" His voice was too annoyingly hopeful.
Michael gritted his teeth, wings folding in hard and angry against his shoulders. Rationally, Cas was absolutely right. Another archangel on their side could only be a positive change, but all the same, he wasn't sure he'd be able to work with him after what he'd done. He wasn't even sure he could manage to coexist in the same state with him, much less be working out of the same house. Still, if he was willing to help fight this war…
"Do what you will, but I'll have nothing to do with him. He'll be your responsibility."
"Hey, now, you know I love Castiel, and not to pull rank or anything, but-"
Michael whirled around, fists clenched. "If you do stay, you stay under my rules. And those include the fact that any creature in this house down to the lowest rodent is above you."
Before he could catch Gabriel's reply, he disappeared into the house. He retracted his wings quickly, paced the length of the kitchen twice before he calmed down enough to really pay attention to Dean's impatience. Oh. He had promised him an explanation after all. To his credit, Dean was finally learning not to fight against his control, and that was certainly a step forward. Of course, that didn't mean he wasn't still easily frustrated by the whole process.
Right. I believe you knew him as a Trickster?
Yeah. So he's an angel?!
An archangel, actually. My age, and very powerful though he doesn't exactly flaunt that or even use it for anything purposeful so much as he does just play with it. Still, he's just laidback, and that was never my problem with him. The argument I have with him regards the way he treated Sam in Broward County.
I remember. But how the hell do you know so much about that, anyway? And what the hell six months are you talking about? That was about four months 'til hell, not-
No, not six months for you. Michael took a deep breath, leaned back against the counter on his elbows, ready for the onslaught of emotion and yelling this was sure to spark. Six months for Sam. He never told you because I think he didn't want to upset you, but the day he first confronted the Trickster…that next day wasn't the Wednesday you remember. It was another Wednesday, and you were shot by a mugger in the parking lot, and you died in his arms, and he spent six months alone that he remembers with perfect clarity. It showed him just how much he couldn't live without you, and the fact that he'd have to be ready and willing to do anything to get you back. Which is part of why he was so accepting of Ruby's instruction when it came to hunting down Lilith for revenge. He'd already lived without you, he was already broken…he didn't have much farther to fall.
At first there was nothing, and with everything he knew of Dean at this point, that was honestly worse than the yelling. He could feel it, quiet horror and pain and shock that went beyond words, and he shut his eyes, shaking his head.
"I know. I'm sorry, too." It broke the silence in the kitchen, and hearing the words aloud seemed to shake Dean a little.
Yeah, I can tell. Thing is, I know why it matters to me. But you just went all Cujo on him without any of my input, and without me even having a full picture of what the hell was goin' on. So, what is it about Sammy that's got you so riled up, huh? Just 'cause he represents an important chess piece here?
There was a lot of bitterness to the last part, and Michael reigned in his own flaring anger. No. No, no, no. Above all things, Sam wasn't just a game piece in this. Certainly not to him. That was how Lucifer saw him, without a doubt. Just a piece of useful meat to be won. Still, as much as he ached to deny it, he wasn't sure Dean was ready for a talk about what exactly Sam did mean to him.
He licked his lips, shook his head once. Something like that, I guess you could say. But he's not just a chess piece. He deserves… Happiness. His brother, a life….everything. Redemption.
And you're tryin' to…what, give him that?
No. He shook his head, eyes slipping closed, the desperation in his next words making them almost a prayer. We can watch him earn it himself. Every inch of him yearned with how badly he wanted just that, and he knew Dean had to feel it. Even so, it wouldn't be enough to make him understand. He's more than capable, I know he is. I have faith in him, and I know you do, too, even angry.
I'm...Dean's wavering hesitation was answer enough and Michael smiled, drumming his fingers soft against the counter.
Yes. I know. Hard to stay angry at him, hm?
Never been able to keep it up for long. I mean, not that I really wanted to, you know?
Yes. I do.
Castiel held his hand out to pull Gabriel up from the gravel, not so surprised when he didn't take it but rather leaned back on his elbows, looking up.
"So, what's up his ass?"
After so many years apart, he'd forgotten the easy familiarity of Gabriel's voice, the lazy, rollicking tone he'd have had in any vessel, because it was his. His own lips quirked up in a smile and he sank gracefully to the ground, crossing his legs and sitting down beside him. "I didn't have any idea he hated you."
"Well, that makes two of us." Gabriel reached up to press against the back of his neck, cracking it absently. "Damn, that actually hurt!" He sighed, nudged Castiel with his knee. "So? Really, what's up with him? I know Michael's always been the serious type, but I don't think I've ever seen him this high strung, not even when Lucifer first left home."
Castiel hunched his shoulders, running over the story as Michael had told it to him. He wanted to explain, but at the same time he hated sharing a secret that wasn't his own so soon after discovering it, even if he was still a little angry at Michael himself. "He's…under a great deal of stress."
"C'mon, Castiel. Sam. Why's he so bent out of shape over-"
"He loves him." Somehow, blurting it out just seemed best. He took a breath in the startled silence that followed, filled it out a little more. "He was given to Sam at birth by our Father, and he loves him, and it was meant to be that way so he wouldn't fail. He's afraid to tell Sam or Dean, and he's certain nothing will ever come of it, and he's terrified he's going to not only lose this war, but that he'll personally lose everything before he sees the world fall. He's terrified he's going to fail, Gabriel, and he hasn't said it but I could see it in his eyes when he was telling me, and I've never seen him afraid before." He flicked his eyes down, studying the rocks and dust beneath his hands. "And I was angry at him, too, but I think we should…" He cast around, settled on the words Dean would've chosen. "Cut him a little bit of slack."
"Hm." Gabriel shifted, leaned back further to look up at the sky. "You know why I came down here without saying a word?" Though he hesitated, it wasn't for long enough to really be wanting an answer. "I was so sick of the insanity, and the tension, and the violence. I don't really give a shit about the regulations, or if Lucifer doesn't want to kiss mankind's collective ass; I just want to see as many of us as can scrape through this be together as a family in the end. So whatever convictions you have about this, Castiel," He looked over at him, smirking, "And I know you have them…I don't care. And I never will. So If I hang around, it's just because I think you're winning. And if that ever starts to not be the case, I'll leave."
Cas would be lying to say that it didn't hurt, that he'd hoped that after being such brothers before, that Gabriel might have missed him even just a little more, but how it felt didn't really matter. He hadn't seen him in ages, and thinking back on it now, it seemed like the mark of a fool to have expected anything else when he saw him in the doorway. He nodded, eyes still down. "You're free to go whenever you want. I can't speak for Michael, but I know I'll be grateful for any help you can give us."
"Alright then." Gabriel reached out, ruffled his hair more roughly than affectionately. "I'll be back tomorrow, when something's actually happening."
Waking, Sam felt more than a little disoriented. He hadn't thought it would be so jarring, not dreaming at all, but now that he'd done it he could say for sure that it was. It wasn't like having a night where he just couldn't remember his dreams; it was more like he'd blacked out, or ceased to exist, or something like that, and considering his condition as a walking 'empty' meatsuit, that feeling wasn't exactly comforting.
He let out a slightly shaky breath as he rolled over, one hand coming up to shield his eyes from the light. A cold glass nudged against his arm then, condensation rubbing off against his skin.
"Here. It'll help." After a few days he was starting to be able to hear the faint edge in his voice that was all Michael and not really like Dean, but fuzzy from sleep like this it still sounded like his brother. Even the actions rang clearly of his overprotective big brother, even if Dean's choice of words probably would've been along the lines of 'drink this, I'm not having you throwing up in my car.'. He almost smiled at the thought, slid his arm back to take the water and ease the glass to his lips, swallowing a small sip.
He heard the chair beside the bed scrape closer over the hardwood floor, and he blinked a few times until his eyes unglued enough to let him focus on Michael. The look on his face was worryingly serious, his eyes studying his own clasped hands, elbows resting on his knees.
Sam sat up against the headboard, shaking his head once and taking another sip to clear it a little more. "What's happened?"
Michael jerked a little at that, apparently yanked out of his own thoughts. Or, maybe a conversation with Dean. Sometimes Sam could tell, sometimes he couldn't.
"It's…there's someone here you won't want to see, but he's come to help us, and while I'd rather throw him out on his ass, he will likely be of use." He shrugged, waving his hand through the air. "But, that's inconsequential, at the moment. Sam…" He licked his lips, brow furrowing as he thought. "What would make you agree to Lucifer's proposition?"
'Cause everyone expects me to agree to it. Frustration spiked hot in his chest and he scooted farther away, setting the glass down on the table with a loud clink. "I'm not going to-"
Michael held up his hand, and though the gesture was clear enough on its own, he could feel the power that came with it, pressuring him into silence. The shock must've shown on his face, then, and Michael cleared his throat, looking away.
"Sorry about that. Sometimes I get…carried away." He sighed, heavy, settled back in his chair as easily as Dean would have. "Sam, I wasn't accusing you, and I didn't want you to think I was. What I'm trying to do is outwit my brother. Cut him off at the pass, so to speak. If I know what he would offer you or threaten you with, I can do everything in my power to make that offer less attractive to take. Whatever it may be."
He laughed bitterly, turning away and shoving the sheets off to set his feet down on the other side of the bed, yanking his jeans up to his hips and fastening them quickly. "You mean, so you can stop me before I screw up. Find some…some tantalizing reward 'cause I'm just that easy to-"
"Will you stop treating me like I'm not on your side?!" Sam jerked back, a little startled to find Michael right in front of him, green eyes steeled hard with frustration. "I've told you I have faith in your strength, and I mean it more than you're willing to believe, but I'm certainly not against you and I don't think you're inevitably going to fail, Samuel. On the contrary, I think you were born to triumph here." His eyes softened, barely, and for a moment his hand twitched, caught between reaching forward and clenching his fist. "I'm not trying to examine every way you're going to fail. I only want to help you with the ways he's going to try to trip you. That's all this was about. Me offering my help, if you want it."
Well, that he hadn't really expected. Either way, it still sounded like a veiled 'I want to be sure I can stop you before you fuck up.', but there was something sincere in his words, and there was the chance that maybe Sam was wrong about that. Maybe. He raked a hand through his hair, shaking his head as he sank back on the bed still half dressed. "I…I'd say he'd threaten Dean, but now that you're in him, I'm not sure how that'd work. Maybe…maybe he'd tell me Dean would be ok afterwards or something, I don't know. Or he'd…tell me I have a chance to fix everything I…" He cut himself off, refusing to even let his mind go through it. "But this is stupid, because I'm not an idiot! No matter what he says, what he offers, I know he isn't going to do it!"
Michael nodded, settling in on the bed next to him. "You're right, he's not, but as I said last night, he's a master of persuasion. You may know he's a filthy liar now, but when he's speaking to you it won't be that clear. Do you understand what I'm saying? He can…get inside your head, in a way. Make sure you're not thinking clearly, wrap you into his convoluted way of thinking and then trap you with a question you wouldn't be able to refuse, if it was true. And by that point, he'll have you believing it is."
Yeah, he knows that, really. Deep down, he knows that if Lucifer gets him alone, he probably has a snowball's chance in Hell, no matter how strong his convictions that he just won't ever say yes. That knowledge terrifies him almost as much as it makes it him determined, maybe even more, but that's not something he wants to come out and say, because if he isn't sure of himself after all that's happened, how the fuck can anyone else be sure of him either?
He almost jumps at Michael's touch on his arm, soft and fleeting. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you. As I said, I know you're strong. I only want you to be prepared. He is a monster I would wish on no one."
Sam nodded, vaguely accepting. "Yeah."
"Right." Michael stretched out, legs crossing in front of him, hands coming back behind him to press into the mattress. "Well, then, I have another question for you." Sam looked over, curious, and he could see open warmth in Michael's gaze when their eyes met. "In your research, have you ever come across anything about my sword?"
His eyebrows knit together in confusion, questioning. "I…thought that was a ruse. That Dean was-"
"My vessel, yes, and they used the sword as a ruse to draw you to a meeting spot that would be familiar, but that doesn't mean I don't have a sword." His lips quirked up, a smirk that wasn't quite like Dean's usual, but something different. "Come now, I know you've seen the pictures. Do you think I drove my brother into his cage with my bare hands? I might have been able to, but it certainly would have been more of a chore."
He'd seen the picture in question a hundred times, probably more than that. It was one of the earliest things he remembered from dad's journal, cut out of some church pamphlet and taped to a page about demons where his father had made it clear he thought the story of Michael caging the devil was bullshit. He rubbed his hands together, thinking. Other than their clue about the hill of 42 dogs that turned out not to be a clue, he had nothing. "Well, it makes sense, but I've never come across it. Then again, I didn't spend any real time researching angel lore until this past year, and even then…" Even then, I wasn't into it like I used to be. Most of my time was taken up with being a dumb shit.
"I need you to try to find it, if you can. I'll need it before the end, but it'd be an important asset at any point during the fight that I can get my hands on it. The only information that I can give you is that, by the early 1800s, it had fallen into the hands of a new order of knights in France, a group of largely high nobles who called themselves The Order of Saint Michael. It came into their hands, they knew it for what it was, and they started an order in my name. After that, I'm not sure where it went."
That was definitely a solid starting point, and he could already feel his thoughts eagerly kicking into gear. It had been far too long since he'd actually put himself into his work fully, and now that he was free of the blood, he could feel his old interests returning. It felt good, clean somehow. And, even if it was just at research, this was a chance to prove himself just a little bit, to himself, even if it didn't matter to anyone else. If he could do something right, he'd break his train of bad decisions.
He scratched absently at his chest, stood and went to his bag, reaching around inside until his hand caught on a button down that he yanked out, shaking out the wrinkles before pulling it on. "I'll get right on it. I know of a few good websites for old church records; I can start with those."
"Good." Michael hesitated before he stood himself, pausing again before he headed out the door. "Sam? Thank you."
All things considered, no one should really be thanking him. It felt like his ribs were twisting, unsettled, and he made a non-committal noise as he finished buttoning up his shirt. By the time he crossed the room to dig out his laptop, Michael had slipped out the door.
Michael was sprawled in a chair near the window, reading, when Castiel came up behind them. Internally, Dean jumped a little at the gentle brush against his arm, the caress lingering enough to be clearly meant for him.
"Hello, Dean." The words slipped out under his breath, soft and warm, and Dean's uneasiness edged back a little.
Can I tell him now? What was bothering you earlier?
Dean would have growled if he could've, suddenly defensive all over again. No.
Michael sighed, eyes rolling. "He's glad you're here."
From the way Cas stiffened when he heard the words, the sarcasm hadn't been lost on him. "Is he…are you still angry at me?"
Jesus, no, ok? Tell him it's ok, tell him-
I've got it.
Michael flipped a page in the book, casual. "No, it's fine. It's me he's upset with. And before you ask…" He skimmed the page, reading much faster than Dean ever could've alone and finding nothing of interest. "No, I haven't hurt him; I haven't done anything to him."
Cas's eyes narrowed, more judging than curious. "Then why-"
"Michael!" They both snapped their heads in Bobby's direction, the near vicious tone in his voice uncharacteristic enough to have grabbed their attention. He wheeled himself close quickly enough, lifted a book off his lap with a finger held between the pages to mark his place, gesturing towards Michael with it. "Did you know about this?"
Even guarded, Dean could feel a shot of something like panic from Michael before he scrambled back into his careful control, nothing about him showing anything but ease as he righted himself in the chair, shutting his own book and dropping it onto the table behind him.
"You're going to have to be more clear, Bobby. I don't recognize the book offhand. We've had many prophets after all, and-"
Bobby wheeled in closer, swept clear the tiny end table next to the chair, and slammed the book down on it, his finger pressing immediately under a passage in flowing script.
And as God has commanded it, the archangel Michael will take his place as the Guardian of all Humanity, and he will fight the Evil One by right of birth and duty, and by his contrasting claim over the One whom those who come from the Pit would crown their Prince, the unholy vessel of their Lord.
Bobby read it aloud, his voice strong and barely shaking with something that could have been rage, or fear, or any mixture of the two. There was maybe only a second's stunned silence when he stopped, and Dean was already running the passage over again in his head, dissecting.
…what the…Mike, what the fuck is this about?!
Bobby didn't wait to question him, his gaze hard and unyielding. "This is Sam, isn't it? What…claim have you all got over Sam? Does he have something else in his blood we don't know about? What the hell is it?"
Michael sighed, rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes.
"No. Not what claim we have over him…they refer only to the claim I have over him."
For some reason, this was the hardest chapter in the world to write, and it's still stubbornly shorter than I intended it to be. Sorry it took so long guys, writing this one was like pulling teeth and I have no idea why.