Author's Note: Well, thank you for waiting so patiently while I obsessed on BBC Sherlock for a while. Here is the next bit of "Too Dark to See" with the much requested Dean/Michael POV. Enjoy, and remember that reviews are love. Oh, and Sherlock fans need not worry. I am still actively writing those stories as well.
"No more buts, Sam," Dean heard Michael chastise his brother. "No more stalling. You'll only end by getting everyone you care about killed, including your brother. Give me the ring. It will be all right, Sam. Just give me the ring."
With a reluctant nod, Sammy did as the archangel commanded. Dean's heart ached for the kid, but Michael was right this time. Delay was their enemy. They had to strike hard and fast at Lucifer before the fallen angel could get his hands on Sammy... or the rest of the world. Dean could feel Michael's immense satisfaction as Sammy pulled the cord free of his shirt, and the smugness made him wish devoutly that he could kick the feathered dick no matter how right he was.
"This is for the best, Dean, all will be – " Michael broke off sharply as Sammy pulled not only the ring but Dean's amulet free of his shirt. Dean gasped – heard the gasp actually emerge from his mouth, an unmistakable sign of Michael's own shock – and cringed away.
"Dean, your amulet… why does Sam have your amulet?"
Dean didn't answer, couldn't answer, not when his thoughts were whirling like a poltergeist on meth. Sammy must have retrieved the little golden idol when Dean dumped it. That was clear. What he didn't know was why. Why had his brother taken his necklace from the trash? Castiel had declared the amulet worse than useless. What was the point in having a device that could help you find God when God did not want to be found? True, Dean had never known the necklace was supposed to be good for anything. He'd kept it because it was a Christmas present from his brother, a sign of the closeness between him a Sammy, a reminder that – no matter how strained things sometimes were between them – Sam loved him. At least that was what it had meant to Dean before their little side trip to Heaven. After Heaven, everything had been different. No, that wasn't true. Nothing about Dean's relationship with his brother had changed… nothing except his understanding of that relationship. He'd finally learned the truth, and it had damn near killed him. Knowing that your own brother cared so little for you that he could only imagine a heaven without you, that had been a hard truth to learn. Knowing it had rather gutted the little golden amulet of all meaning. Dean had, in that moment, finally believed that Castiel was right. The amulet was useless… meaningless. He'd dropped it in garbage where it belonged, his heart feeling as hollow as the garbage can sounded when the necklace landed in it with a metallic clang.
But if meant nothing, why had Sammy retrieved it? And why was he clutching in his fist now as if fearful that Michael intended to snatch it away along with the ring?
"You see Dean," Michael gloated, "Sam does love you. If he did not, why would he keep a memento that you yourself threw away? You can lie to yourself, but you cannot lie to me. You must reconsider your decision to destroy yourself. Let me give Sam the promise he's asked for. Let me – "
"No! Stop it!"
The archangel bristled in disgust and irritation, took the ring from Sam's outstretched hand, then turned on his heel and marched away, cutting off Dean's view of his brother's pained face. Dean didn't complain. The last thing he wanted right now was to face Sammy.
"You are a stubborn fool," Michael sighed. "Perhaps he is better off without – "
"Michael!" Sammy called.
"What?" the angel snapped as he turned to face his vessel's brother.
"Michael, you're… you're smoking," Sam gasped, looking utterly dumbfounded.
"Don't be ridiculous," Michael said dismissively. Sam scowled, then grabbed him by the arm and turned him about. Dean found himself facing the hall tree mirror, and he recoiled at what he saw there. It was his clothing, his body, his face, and yet… it wasn't. The expression and posture was all wrong, alien and Dean knew his skin would be crawling if all of his bodily functions weren't currently being controlled by an angel. An angel whose gaze was focusing in the smoke rising wispily from the seams and cuff of his left sleeve.
"What the hell now?" Dean blurted, gaping at his reflection, but the scene before his eyes changed before he'd even finished the thought. In an instant, he found himself standing in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Every surface not covered in dust was covered in books. Dean had been in the room before but not for many long years, and the books seemed to be breeding like tribbles. Once again, he stood before a mirror, this time a full-length, free-standing antique with a crack along the bottom. The glass was coated in layers of dust years old, but even through the grime, he could see that his left sleeve was still smoking.
"Am I on fire? Am I on freakin' fire?" Dean howled, the words ringing inside his mind so loudly that even Michael flinched.
"Calm yourself, Dean," Michael advised him exasperatedly. "There is no need to – "
"When you were trying to convince me to say yes, you said you'd put me back as good as new when you were done with me. And now I'm on fire? You be calm!"
"You are not on fire. There are no flames."
"Hah!" Dean retorted. "You ever heard the old saw, 'Where there's smoke…?'"
"You are being infantile."
"I am being immolated."
"I am an archangel," Michael grumbled, taking Famine's ring and stringing in on the same chain that held War's ring. The, looking back up, he began fingering the fabric of the sleeve curiously. "What could possibly burn me?"
"Umm, duh. Holy oil."
"Which would be much more obvious and unmistakable. It would not kill me, but even shielded as you now are, you would feel the pain of such an attack."
"Okay. So if it's impossible, why is my sleeve smoking?"
"I do not know," Michael admitted grudgingly.
"So take it off and look, you nitwit."
"Stop ordering me about," Michael growled, his eyes – Dean's eyes – narrowing ill-temperedly.
"Stop stalling," Dean countered.
With a sound that Dean could only describe as a huff, Michael shifted his shoulders and shrugged awkwardly out of Dean's heavy green cotton coat, dropping it unceremoniously on the floor. The moment the coat slipped off his arms, more smoke that had been caught and held by the thick fabric billowed out, rising in little streamers toward the ceiling. Dean drew in a mental breath and felt Michael do the same. The left sleeve of his blue denim shirt was visibly charred on the outer edge over his upper arm. Staring fixedly at Dean's arm in the mirror, Michael began to remove the rest of his clothing. It took far longer than the hunter would have expected because the super-powerful archangel – Heaven's greatest weapon, his ass! – didn't seem to know how to work a button.
"You have got to be kidding me."
"When would I have had occasion to work these arcane fixtures?" Michael grumbled. "Angels do not require clothing. We feel no shame in our true forms and – "
"And you don't live where it's 20 degrees outside and a stiff breeze will shrivel your testicles up like a pair of prunes."
"I do not have testicles," Michael corrected automatically.
"You do now, brother, and you'd better take care of them."
"I am not your brother," Michael snapped, still fighting the buttons. "And these fastenings must have been invented by one of Lucifer's idiot followers… or perhaps a demon."
"Nah. They're more into hooks. Believe me, I know." Michael grew still, his hands ceasing to fuss at the buttons, and Dean could only stare at his hands, helpless to shift his own gaze. "What?" he asked impatiently, when the angel simply continued to stand there, staring at his hands.
"What was it like?"
"What was what like?"
Dean blinked mentally. Okay. Tangent. Serious tangent. "Why ask me? There must have been plenty of angels along on the great Free Michael's Vessel from Hell mission. Can't you find out from your higher knowledge bank?"
"I meant, what was it like for you?"
"It was all beer and skittles," Dean rejoined without missing a beat.
"Dean, please, I want to know."
"Why? You don't give a crap about me. I have it on good authority you didn't even come along on the rescue. Now would you finish with the striptease already, so we can see what's wrong with my arm?"
Michael sighed aloud, but he resumed his fight with the buttons. "I wish you could do this," he grumbled.
Dean froze, arrested by the idea. "Could I? Is there a way for me to take over for a minute?"
"No. It is not possible for me to cede that much control. I would have to leave you entirely, and that would not be safe, as I have already explained to Sam."
"Huh." Dean waited in silence after that, deciding that he shouldn't push his tentative truce with Michael to the edge by laughing at him anymore. Eventually, the archangel managed to unfasten the denim overshirt without destroying it or even ripping off any of the buttons. It only took about ten minutes. "Good thing we're not worried about anything south of the border," Dean quipped, unable to help himself, "because I wouldn't want you working a zipper near my man parts."
"Nor I," Michael agreed wryly. He pulled off the overshirt and both of them stared in horrified fascination at the final layer of Dean's clothing, now revealed. Dean had been wearing a long-sleeved, tan, thermal undershirt when he went to meet Michael, and he still was wearing it. It had not, however, had a large hole in it when last Dean had seen it. The fabric of this shirt wasn't just blackened or charred, it was gone, completely burned away. More smoke had escaped when the overshirt was removed, and bits of ash had fallen to the floorboards. The edges of the hole in the thermal were still smoldering, sparks glowing visibly in the cotton weave. Through the hole, outlined almost perfectly, glowed Castiel's handprint.
"What the hell?" Dean breathed, gaping at the glowing handprint, or at least trying to as Michael frantically ripped off the last layer of Dean's clothing, temporarily obscuring his vision. "I mean, what the FUCK?"
"I don't know," Michael admitted as he swiped at the grimy glass of the mirror, leaving a streak of slightly less crusty silver behind him. He stepped closer, angling Dean's body sideways for a better look. The handprint was bright red, its outline was as sharp as the day Dean had returned from Hell. The patches of skin where Castiel had gripped him were raised and swollen, standing out above the rest of his skin. It looked fresh and angry as any new burn scar… except that burn scars didn't generally smoke as if they were still on fire.
"I don't know!"
Michael waved his hand over the scar, dissipating the remaining smoke, and Dean was relieved to see that no smoke seemed to be coming from the skin itself, just from the clothing that had rested over the top of it. When the archangel held Dean's right hand a few inches above the burn, Dean could feel the heat rising from the flesh. It didn't feel hot enough to start a fire, more like the way Sammy had felt when he'd had strep throat that time as a kid. God, that episode had scared the crap out of Dean. He hadn't known what was wrong with Sammy at the time, just that the kid had a fever over 100 degrees, was crying in pain and their dad was out on the road. With no way to take him to the doctor, Dean had plied his baby brother with cold drinks, ice chips, and anything else that would soothe his throat. He'd even stolen ice cream from a local convenience store. That had been a close call. They'd been lucky that strep wasn't serious. If it had been something serious… Dean shook himself. Sammy was an adult now and he didn't need Dean to worry about him anymore, let alone take care of him.
"This is not as good as new, Michael," Dean grouched, grabbing on to the first thing he could think of to distract himself from thoughts of Sammy, especially little Sammy.
"That hardly seems relevant since you have expressly asked me to kill you when I am done with you," Michael said distractedly, still with Dean's hand hovering over Castiel's handprint.
"You're a jerk."
"And you are a… I believe humans would call you a whiner."
"You unbelievable ass!" Dean shouted. "I'm a whiner? You dicks started the Apocalypse because you were freakin' bored and feeling unappreciated, and you think I'm a whiner? Why, because I don't want you to destroy the world? Because I don't like your sucky-ass Heaven?"
"Because you are determined to feel sorry for yourself and throw away the gift that God has given you."
"Your life. Your very soul"
"I'm doing what you wanted!"
"I wanted you to say yes, Dean. I never wanted you to die."
"Then you and your whiny siblings should have left us all the hell alone."
"It was Lucifer's followers who began all this, not I."
"You aided and abetted. You and Zachariah and Rafael and all the rest of the harp playing douche bags."
"I told you, Dean, I was not party to Zachariah and Rafael's plan anymore than I was party to Azazel's scheming." Michael looked up and met his own gaze in the mirror again. "Nor have I ever played a harp."
Dean groaned. "That was sarcasm. Duh."
Michael rolled his eyes, which left Dean feeling unexpectedly queasy. "None of this matters at the moment. There is something wrong with this vessel. We need to focus on that and nothing else."
"Umm, hellooo. I am this vessel, and there was nothing wrong with me before."
"Well, something is wrong now. I must – "
"So help me, if you say 'seek revelation,' I'm going to start throwing things."
"How?" Michael demanded wryly.
"And a great big bite me to you," Dean replied sourly.
"I must examine this more closely," Michael said, closing their eyes. "I am uncertain what I will find, so be prepared."
"And how do I – " Dean broke off as he felt Michael actually touch the raised skin of Castiel's handprint. A jolt passed through him like lightning. His muscles contracted, his entire body going rigid and making him flash back to his accidental electrocution a few years prior. He heard a gasp, felt a sensation like falling and then knew nothing more.