Title: Lift Me Up
Author: morkhan
Warnings: Violence, cursing.
Characters: Adam, Michael, Sam, Dean. Guest appearances by Bobby and Castiel, mentions of Lisa and Ben.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 19,212
Summary: When Adam returns from Hell, he is broken. But when his brothers try to put him back together, they discover many pieces that are missing—and some pieces that are entirely new.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters; I just like to pet them in my spare time. They have such soft hair… *ahem* No money is being made and everything belongs to the CW, WB, and EK. Thanks to them for being good sports.

A/N: I spent about a week writing this, and it was about 10,000 words long. Then I went through with the intention of proofreading it, and wound up re-writing it over the course of a second week to the tune of about 9,000 more words. I'm afraid to go through it again. XO I don't like posting unfinished things, so you might never see a WIP from me, but if my stories keep growing like this, I might have to divide them into chapters out of necessity. XP Not Beta'd, but I tried to iron out as many mistakes as possible. Any and all reviews welcome. Enjoy!

"Hand of hope, come and change me. Out of ashes, make me whole. Lift me up and recreate me, and help me overcome myself; lead me from Hell." –In the Light, Full Blown Rose

Dirt. Darkness. Silence. Cold. More dirt. Mostly dirt. The dirt is the biggest problem. Oh, sure, he's dealt with dirt before, but that doesn't mean he likes it. But hey, it's just a thing. All things are things, things to be dealt with, things to be overcome. He can deal with dirt. All he has to do is move it—all of it—before he suffocates. This is the second time he's done it, even.

He digs for a while. His movements are panicked and frantic and practically feral, but he doesn't actually panic. He isn't afraid. What is there to be afraid of? He's died before. He's come back before. Then he died again, and now he is coming back again. Death is just another thing. His life… or afterlife… whatever… was filled with things. He has trouble keeping track of them sometimes. Pain was a thing. It was a Big Thing. For a while, it was the only thing. He is glad that is no longer the case. At least, he thinks he is glad. He can't be sure. Glad feels like the right word, but his memory of such things is hazy. Maybe he'll figure it out later.

His hand finds something that isn't dirt. He tries to grab it, but it slips through his fingers. It feels nice, though, and he wants more of it. So he keeps moving the dirt until the dirt is gone, and the only remaining sensation is not-dirt. His lungs (hey, there's another thing) like the not-dirt much better than the dirt. Yes, this is the same feeling he got when he found something other than pain. He likes it. Glad is definitely a good word. Maybe even happy. Those things are still kind of fuzzy and indistinct, but bits and pieces of them are floating around, coming together, forming new (or is it old?) things for him to wrestle with. It's all a bit overwhelming, and he kind of wishes they would slow down. It's hard to focus on sorting things into the proper categories when he gets a dozen new things every second. His mind is a vast plain, covered in impenetrable, dark fog.

A presence is nearby. There is light without heat (two more things) and all the gladness fades away. "Adam Milligan," a voice says, flat and bored. A man in a dark suit steps into his view; he is the one speaking. But he can't hear what the guy is saying over the obnoxious sound of everything else he is saying. The guy has two voices—a loud voice, which his ears pick up, and his quiet voice, which he hears with… something else. If he focuses, he can sort of cut through the haze single out the loud voice, which seems to be talking to him. "…will accompany you to Heaven… apologize for… for so long." Heaven. Heaven. That is definitely a thing. Suddenly, his mind is filled with strange shapes formed of liquid light, and unfamiliar sounds of words that are not words. Somehow, he finds them comforting. He rises to his feet.

"Adam, do you hear me?" the Man says. Adam… is that his name? It seems like a good one. Firm. Strong. Good starting point. He likes it. "Are you deaf?" the Man says, and Adam realizes two very important things: that the Man is not a Man, and that Adam does not like him. He turns away from him, or not-him. Whatever. "Adam Milligan! You dare turn your back on a servant of Heaven?" That Heaven thing again. "You Winchesters," he says, his voice growing angry. "I am offering you a chance to return to…" Winchesters! That is a big thing. It pops in his mind like a firecracker, and he wants to focus on it, but the Not a Man just won't leave him alone. He continues to speak, but Adam ignores his loud voice in favor of the strange shapes and unfamiliar words bouncing around in his skull. He raises a finger to his mouth and bites right through the skin, barely wincing as the blood starts trickling. The sound of Not a Man's footsteps lets him know that the thing is getting closer. Hurriedly, he draws the shapes in his head on his palm, using the blood as ink. He does it quickly but carefully. Arrangement is important. Form is important. Accuracy is important.

"Look at me, worm!" Not a Man grabs his shoulder.

He puts his hand up to his mouth. "MAD GAH-L OLANI PON," he whispers.

"What did you just say?" Not a Man sounds surprised. He is taken aback. Good. "You!" he shouts, his eyes growing wide. "You are—"Adam doesn't let him finish. He lashes out like a whip and grabs Not a Man's forehead. The skin sizzles on contact. "MAD GAH-L OLANI PON," he shouts. Not a Man screams with all of his voices, his loud voice becoming a wail and his quiet voice becoming an incredibly high-pitched whine that seems like it should hurt, but… doesn't. There is light—brilliant, pure light, shooting from Not a Man's mouth, from his eyes, from his nostrils, from every part of his flesh. Geysers of luminescence erupt from every pore as the entire being is consumed in a glow that makes the sun seem dim by comparison, until a final, explosive wave of white blasts out from his body and he falls over, the glow fading like a dying ember. A new feeling immediately floods through him, though he doesn't recognize it immediately, he knows he likes it.

The world is quiet after that, and Adam feels better. Lighter. More and more pieces begin to come together, and he is able to sort his thoughts into the following:

Adam is him. That's his name. Winchester… Winchester is his family. Winchesters are his brothers… which, he supposes, makes him Adam Winchester.

And Heaven is something he doesn't like. Somewhere he doesn't want to go, and something he does not want to think about. He has plenty of other things to think about in the meantime… like the name of this new feeling.

With a strange, delirious sense of lightness, he throws his arms up and allows himself to fall backwards onto the grass, his limbs sprawled out in every direction. He stares at the sky and smiles. This is perhaps his favorite of all the things he has felt so far.

He calls it freedom.

He goes to his brothers. The tall one first. He really doesn't know how or why, but he seems drawn to him, like he can catch his scent on a wind somehow. When Adam finds him, he very nearly has a heart attack when he sees him. Adam doesn't remember much, but it seems to him like his brother should react to him with something other than shouting and salting and scrambling for a gun. He doesn't know what to say, so he doesn't say anything. He just lets his brother poke him and prod him and dunk him and dry him until he seems to be satisfied. "Oh my God," he says. "Is it really you?"

Adam shrugs because he really doesn't know.

"Are you…" he starts, then stops. "Do you remember anything?"

"Adam," he says, and nods. "I'm Adam Winchester."

"Close enough," he sighs.

"You're my brother," Adam says. He knows this to be true. Winchester… tall, comforting, understanding, unyielding. You'd fit right in around here. "You're Sam."

"I am," he says, and his voice sounds odd. Thick. Clogged with something.

"I don't… I don't know much else," he says honestly, because Sam keeps looking at him like he is about to evaporate and he feels like he might actually do it if he doesn't stop.

"It's okay," Sam says. "We'll figure it out." He grabs Adam in what is less of a hug and more of a squeeze, and it feels strange. It's another feeling he doesn't quite know how to identify. It makes him feel bad, but… in a good way. He wants to cry, but he doesn't mind. It's really confusing and he doesn't know what to do besides let Sam continue to squeeze him in hopes that whatever is making him feel like this will leak out of him and sink into the ground, going to the place where he came from and disappearing forever.

He doesn't need to find the short one; Sam finds him instead, in a nice house with a nice lady and her nice little boy, who go out to get dinner when Sam arrives and do not come back for quite a while. And soon Adam discovers that in terms of Winchester brothers greeting each other, he got off easy. There is a great deal of anger and throwing and punching and yelling, and Adam doesn't realize how sensitive his ears are until they are under attack. He covers them up with his hands and curls into a ball on the couch, tuning out everything but the Quiet Voices—he hasn't figured out how to stop those yet. He doesn't even realize that the shouting has stopped until he feels a strong hand on his shoulder. He slowly sits up and uncovers his ears.

"Adam," the short one says gently. "Hey, buddy. Do you remember me?"

Adam studies him. There is a flash of an unmistakable grin, a wink, not aimed at him. It says 'everything's gonna be okay' and you can't not believe it. "…Dean. You're Dean." Dean smiles, and then Sam smiles, and then Adam smiles because he doesn't want to feel left out.

"Got it in one, kiddo," Dean says. "Sam tells me you don't remember much."

He nods.

"Well, that's alright, 'cause you know what? Me and Sammy, we're gonna take care of you. Try and get your brain unscrambled. That sound good?"

Adam nods again. He and Dean start to speak at the same time, but Adam gets there first. "What if… I don't? Get unscrambled, I mean. What if I'm always…?" He doesn't finish, because he can't. There is too much fog clouding his thoughts, and he can't find the words to explain things to his brothers. The whispers that never stop, always playing in the background at low volume… all the things that he understands that he just does not get… the things that he knows that he does not know he knows until he knows them. His thoughts are slippery, and he can never hold on to them for long. They slide out of his grasp and disappear into the mists, and he never knows whether or not he will see them again.

"Adam," Dean says as he moves into Adam's line of sight (he didn't even realize he had looked away). "Listen to me, okay? I already told you: Me and Sam? We're gonna take care of you. If that means doing it for the rest of your life, then that's what we'll do. Period." Dean looks down. Adam's sensitive ears barely pick up a whisper. "We owe you that." Dean looks like he's out of words, at the moment, so Sam picks up for him.

"You're our brother," he says. "You're family. And family looks out for each other, no matter what."

Adam believes him.

Dean moves out. He wants to stay at the nice house with the nice lady and her nice little boy, but Adam makes them sad. Adam makes everyone sad, really, but Dean doesn't want the lady and her son to be sad. He wants all the sadness for himself, and Adam doesn't understand why Dean is hoarding it. Sadness isn't something that most people would want, but Dean is determined to take as much of it into himself as he can. Maybe Adam does understand. Sometimes he wants to take Dean's, but he wouldn't know what to do with it. Adam can't hold sadness like Dean can; he is like a bucket with dozens of holes, and anything inside of him just spills out into the world. Dean is airtight and leak free.

So they go and stay in a rusty old house, with a rusty old man. Adam makes him sad, too, but also a little afraid. He looks at Adam like he might explode, and sometimes Adam thinks he is right to do so. Dean speaks to him in the kitchen while Sam gives Adam some paper and colored pencils to use in the living room. "Hey, Adam," he says. "I thought you might be getting bored, so I got you some stuff. Colored pencils, crayons, paper, stuff like that…" He trails off awkwardly. "I, I looked a few things up on the internet, talked to a few people, they told me stuff like this might help. Different hemispheres of the brain register things in different ways, so even if you can't really put things into words, you might be able to put them into pictures instead." Adam smiles. Sam is always trying to help, always thoughtful, and Adam really likes him. He likes Dean, too, of course, but there's just something about Sam… something that seems to draw Adam to him like a magnet. If Adam is a compass, Sam is North, and there is a part of Adam that always points towards him.

He picks up a pencil and starts drawing, but Dean is speaking to the old man in the kitchen and Adam wants to hear. His hand keeps moving aimlessly as he focuses on their conversation. "…oke. Bad, Bobby. Like into-a-million-pieces bad. I don't know what to do for him."

"Son, you might want to start thinkin' about what's gonna happen if you can't do anything for him. I've seen my share of head trauma, the supernatural kind and the good ol' fashioned club-to-the-head kind… it can't always be fixed."

"I don't need to think about it. I already know what'll happen: he'll stay with us."

"For how long?"

"Forever, if he has to."


"No, Bobby. That kid took a bullet for us, for me, and nobody even asked him. He didn't even have a choice, Bobby, he was just there."

"That's what I'm tryin' to tell you: he was just there, and they did this to him. Not you! You've gotta stop this, Dean… Hell, I seem to remember you tellin' Sam yourself—you can't save everyone. You can't carry all this weight forever, Dean. Sooner or later, you'll give out, and when you do, all that guilt's gonna come down and squash you flat."

"It's not guilt, Bobby!"

"Then what is it, Dean? What else could possibly make you up and leave that family that I know you love to take care of a kid you barely knew?"

Adam and Bobby both wait for the answer. It never comes, however, because Sam suddenly rockets off the couch like he sat on a springboard, his eyes wide and fearful. He snatches the pad from Adam's hands (he had forgotten he was even still drawing) and stares at him with a mixture of horror and sadness. "You're not Adam," he says. "Dean!"

Dean and the old man (Bobby, Dean called him) run into the living room. "Sam, what is it?"

"That's not Adam," Sam seethes, and Adam feels a jolt of pain in his chest, like someone shocked his heart. The way Sam looks at him hurts deeper than anything he remembers.

"Sam, what are you talkin' about? I thought you already did all the tests. Hell, we even figured out a test for Ghouls!"

"There's one thing we never figured out how to test for," Sam says, his eyes never leaving Adam, who feels like melting into the floor just to get away from it. "Look." He hands the pad to Dean, who looks confused, then shocked, then pissed.

"Holy crap! That's… that's Enochian. This is like the Second Coming of Anna."

"Exactly. Last time I checked, none of Adam's merit badges were in Angelic Language Mastery." Sam's eyes are cold, so cold, and Dean is looking at him like he is a smear of mud that needs to be wiped away.

"Which means," Dean seethes, a hateful sound filtered through clenched teeth, "that we have a freshly baked slice of Angel Food Cake on our hands. And there's only one angel it could be." Dean juts his chin at Adam, and he flinches as if struck. "Hello, Michael."

The name is not one he has heard before, but resonates in his mind like a chime, and Adam immediately knows that it is right. But Adam also felt right, in a different way. Adam was like the ground beneath his feet, the foundation of his world, stable and firm. Michael feels different. It's like the sky, the stars, the sun and moon, potential and possibility inviting him to reach out and touch them.

It feels like… wings.

"I'm… Michael," he says, testing it on his tongue, and yes. It feels right.

His brothers don't like it, however. "Well, thanks for admitting it. Good to see we're all on the same page," Dean sneers. "Now, if you don't mind, why don't you fuck off back to Heaven? Leave the meatsuit, we kind of like it."

Adam shuts his eyes and shakes his head. "I don't like Heaven." Heaven is pain, and betrayal, and no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no YES—

"Awww, what's the matter, Mikey? Your angel buddies revoke your membership card? You get voted off the island for being a douchebag? Cause while I can't really say I'm surprised, I can't say I give a crap, either." Dean's voice is practically dripping with venom and Adam wishes he could understand what is happening here, what he did wrong, and why his brothers suddenly hate him. He starts breathing heavily, and the fog whips itself into a whirlwind. His thoughts fly faster and faster; there's too much for him to process, he can't handle it all, and he starts to curl in on himself again, trying to ride out the storm.

"Dean," Sam says, his voice like a gentle but firm grip on his brother's shoulder, pulling him back.

"What?" Dean barks, not wanting to be restrained.

"I don't think this is the Michael we remember," Sam says, not letting go. "Look at him. He looks like he's about to cry."

He kind of is. But Dean has not given up on the fight. "It's… it's gotta be a trick."

"Why would he need to trick us, Dean? What would be the point?" Sam reasons, his voice now a massage, draining the anger and tension from Dean, letting it drip from him and soak into the carpet. "If he wanted to smite us, he would have already done it. There's been like a dozen places where he easily could have killed us, even if he doesn't have his angel mojo."

Dean still hasn't completely given in. "Maybe he still wants me as his sock puppet."

But Sam acts like a professional, unperturbed, as though he's done this a thousand-thousand times. "Again; why? As far as I can tell, Adam worked just as well as you did. No signs of wear and tear like Nick showed with Lucifer. Plus, the apocalypse is over." From his fetal position on the floor, Adam hears tentative footsteps, and stops trying to shrink into nonexistence long enough to look up. Sam is approaching him.

"Sam!" Dean whispers, reaching out to grab him.

Sam deflects him easily. "No, Dean. I think there's more to this. There's no logical reason for him to be acting this way if he is what we think he is." He crouches in front of Adam, and that inexplicable draw takes over again. Adam's fear melts away, and he looks Sam in the eyes. "Adam?" he asks, a question in and of itself. The ground is firm. Adam nods. "Michael?" he asks next. Adam thinks for a second; the air hums, tingles with energy. He nods again.

"Christina?" Dean sneers. It is an odd question, and the name does not ping like the others. He shakes his head 'no.' "Well, at least he knows he's not a girl."

"Dean, shut up. This is serious," Sam says in his defense, and Adam filled with so much gratitude and relief that his hand seems to shoot out and latch onto the source of its own accord.

"Sam…" he says. "What's going on? I don't… I don't… I can't…" Now, his problem is the opposite of before; too many thoughts come at once, too many feelings, too many words, all trying to escape through the same tiny opening. Adam's brain is overloaded. It has frozen and needs to be rebooted manually.

"Shhh," Sam says. "It's okay. We'll figure it out." He pulls Adam into a hug, but it doesn't feel right. It is less warm, less certain, less reassuring than before. Because it is Sam, he takes it anyway. "Dean," Sam says without moving his head. "I think we need some help on this."

A couple of days pass. Adam draws, and draws, and draws. It keeps his mind from being overwhelmed by the whispers —the Quiet Voices— which seem to grow louder and louder without ever being more than whispers. Dean avoids him. Sam avoids him without avoiding him, being around him, but never with him. They don't know who he is, which is terrible, because neither does he, and they were his anchor. They were the only confirmation that any of his thoughts and memories were real, and their uncertainty makes him feel like he is floating in space, adrift with nothing to push off of, no control over where or how fast he is going, no way to stop.

He finishes a drawing of two figures made of light, smashing into one another and exploding. For just a second, it looks to him like the two figures are actually starting to glow—then he realizes the light is coming from elsewhere. It's the light without heat, same as before but multiplied; he raises his arm to shield his eyes from it, but it pierces through sleeve, flesh, bone, and eyelid, and he fears for a second it might pierce through him entirely, burning him out and erasing him from the world. A deep sense of dread makes itself comfortable in the pit of his stomach as the whispering of the Quiet Voices reaches a fever pitch and Adam can't take it. "Shut up!" he shouts.

"I didn't say anything," Sam says, confused and slightly frightened.

Adam didn't know he was in the room. It was kind of hard to see what with being blinded by light and all. "I wasn't talking to you." He can't explain further, because the voices did not listen and are continuing to chat.

"Adam." His name is spoken in two new voices. They interfere with each other, clashing and mixing and he can't separate them. He opens his eyes to see that the light is gone—or rather, contained, in the form of a man in a trench coat. He immediately identifies it as another Not a Man. And Adam doesn't like him.

"Go away," Adam says. "I don't like you."

"What?" Dean says, entering the room behind the new figure. He sounds… offended. "Hey, that's just… wrong, man." His face goes stern, and he points a finger at Adam, issuing an order. "You're not allowed to not-like Cas. Cas is awesome."

"Adam," Sam says, always a calm in the storm. "This is Castiel. He's here to help you."

"I don't want help from him," Adam says, scrambling to his feet and backing away from Castiel. The light cast by Castiel seems to reflect inside of Adam's mind; the fog in his brain is illuminated, revealing hidden shapes and words, ones he hasn't seen since the last time he encountered one of these… things. The shapes arrange themselves into a pattern, and the words align to form phrases—they are incredibly intricate, much more than before, and Adam knows that if he wanted to, he could use them to make Castiel go away. Possibly forever, though that would be much, much harder. But Sam (and Dean) seems to like Castiel, and Adam likes Sam (and Dean), so Adam attempts to not not-like Castiel. It's not easy, because Castiel is looking at him with incredibly intense eyes and speaking only in his quiet voice… a voice he recognizes. "You're one of the whispers!" he blurts, blissfully unaware of how weird it sounds.

"What?" Dean asks. "The Whispers? Is that like a band, or something?"

Sam rolls his eyes. "Dean. You're not this stupid. We both know it."

Dean sighs. "You got your coping mechanisms, I got mine."

"You can hear us speaking, can't you?" Castiel says, seemingly used to ignoring his brothers' bickering. He speaks again, in his quiet voice. "You can hear our true voices, and you are not harmed."

Adam nods. "That's… that's people talking?"

"No," Castiel says. "That is angels talking." A few things slide into place within Adam's mind—angels were something Sam and Dean had mentioned before. The term sounded familiar then, and now he can assign meaning to it; angels are the light-people, the whispers and the voices, and he doesn't like them, he doesn't like them, he doesn't like them.

"Like I said, Anna 2.0. Now with 100% less sex appeal," Dean says, his voice lassoing Adam and pulling him back into the moment.

Sam shoots Dean that very particular face that only Sam seems capable of making. Adam kind of likes it, if only for its uniqueness.

"It is not the same," Castiel says, and Adam's attention is jerked back to him. He feels dizzy from all this rebounding. Castiel continues to stare at him in the strange, unnerving way that he has been doing since he arrived. "Anna fell and was reborn as an infant human. This is… different."

"Cas, no offense, but we're really not interested in the specifics here. We need the big answer: who's driving this train?" Dean points to Adam, who was not aware that he was a train. "Is it Adam or Michael in there?"

Castiel's expression changes for the first time in the few minutes Adam has known him. He seems… shocked. Confused. And perhaps… even a bit frightened. "It is…" The expression breaks as he shakes his head and squints, but it simply reaffirms itself twice as strong a second later. "It is both." The announcement hangs in the air for a few seconds, as everyone attempts to breathe it in.

"Wait, both? You mean like… there's two people in there? Like riding a tandem bike?" Dean asks. Adam tries to picture himself as a bicycle. It is… an odd sight.

"No. There is only one being, one consciousness in there. And somehow, it is Adam and Michael, both at once."

"Okay, uhhh… Sam? I am fresh out of brain juice; can you explain to our angel friend just how much sense he is not making right now?" Dean massages the bridge of his forehead, a sudden, deep weariness seeming to age him ten years in a second.

Sam steps in to pick up for his big (well, older) brother. "Cas, we really have no idea what you're saying here. How can one person be two people? And why? None of this makes any sense to us."

The angel shakes his head. "I cannot say for sure. But I can see the souls of beings. They are unique to each individual, and the only thing I can say for certain is that the soul in that body is as much Adam's as it is Michael's."

"So… you're saying he's two people?" Dean asks, again.

"No," Castiel replies, slightly exasperated. "I am saying that he used to be, and that somehow, the two became one." There is a silence that feels longer than it actually is, as everyone tries to figure out how to respond to this. Adam doesn't have the slightest clue as to what to do with this information. The clouds in his mind darken and rumble with thunder.

Sam speaks, cutting right to the meat. "So… what does this mean for him?"

"I don't know, Sam. There is very little precedent for this sort of thing. Perhaps we should consult our best source of information on the subject." Castiel again turns to Adam. "First: by which name would you like to be called? Adam or Michael?"

It takes him a couple seconds to realize that he is expected to reply. He isn't used to being included in conversations about himself. "Adam," he answers easily. It's not that he doesn't like Michael, but his brothers definitely like Adam better. He does too, he thinks, though that might just be because they like it.

"Very well," Castiel says. "Adam, what exactly do you remember? Do you know anything about your life? Your family?"

"Sam and Dean... are my brothers." Adam nods to himself, completely certain. "I'm… I'm Adam." It's less certain, but he knows it's true. His head tilts to the side as he continues. "I died before. I was buried and I had to dig myself out. I was… up here, and I fell." He scrunches up his face. "I was… I was hurt. Somewhere. I hurt for a long, long time. It was… it was bad." Dean seems to be tensing up like he wants to hit something, but Adam is focused and barely notices. "Then I had to dig again. There was… an angel. I didn't like him. He didn't like me. I uhhh…" He trails off. His brothers are looking at him expectantly, and somehow he knows they won't like what comes next. "There were… these shapes that just kind of popped into my head. I used them. And the words, too… and… he exploded." He swallows thickly, his throat suddenly dry. "I think… I think I killed him."

Suddenly, everything is silent. Even the whispers stop, for a second. Sam looks at him like he is a monster (no, no, please don't hate me), and Dean looks at him like he is already dead, another in a long (so, so long) list of losses he will never, ever lose track of. Castiel just looks worried.

"This is not good," Castiel finally says. No one disagrees.

Sam does not hate him. The angels, however, definitely do. Most of them, anyway.

Adam is now number one on the list of Heaven's Most Wanted. Half of the host sees him as an abomination that should be cleansed from the earth, and they are more than willing to do so themselves with or without Castiel's blessing; the other half see him as the last hope of reclaiming their beloved leader and will happily rip him open like an envelope to take the Michael out of him, piece by piece if necessary. Castiel has enough clout upstairs to keep entire angelic armies from sweeping the earth to smoke him out, but he is not omniscient or omnipotent, and he cannot stop all the angels. Fortunately, Adam can hear them communicating much of the time, so he knows where they will be. They have thus far managed to avoid any close encounters of the winged kind, but Adam can feel several of them closing in, and he knows it is only a matter of time.

Shortly after moving out of Lisa's, Dean suggests they start hunting again, because Dean doesn't know how to do anything else and he can't not do things. Sam agrees: they would be helping people, and the constant movement would make it more difficult for Adam/Michael's hit squad/fan club to find them. And so the Winchesters greet the open road once more. Adam is introduced to the Impala and instructed in no uncertain terms that it's part of the family, and if he mistreats it, there will be consequences, and they will be dire as Hell. Adam doesn't really need the warning—he knows he loves the Impala as soon as he sees her and would never dream of hurting her.

It is in the middle of their very first hunt as a trio (well, as a duo plus Adam, who can't be much help), when they discover just how much Michael was mixed into their Adam. It happens in a gas station just outside of La Grange, Georgia. They're following a trail of demonic omens that has been making a steady march down the east coast. Dean is in the store paying and buying snacks, Sam is manning the pump, and Adam is stuck in the backseat, because Adam does not know how to talk to people and he makes them afraid (and sad, of course). He doesn't mind the boredom, but something itches in his mind, makes him angry, furious, and he is out of the car before Sam even realizes he is leaving. Dean emerges from the store just in time to see Adam, his face frighteningly focused and empty of emotion, approaching an African-American gentleman of about 30, average build, who is putting air in his tires.

"Well, hello there, young man. What can I do fffffff—"He has trouble finishing his sentence because Adam's fist is crammed into his mouth.

Sam gives a spectacular "Oh, shit" in both verbal and nonverbal flavors, dropping the gas pump in favor of trying to stop the spectacular beating Adam is currently dishing out to a complete stranger.

In the time it takes Sam to full-on sprint to his brother, Adam has slammed the gentleman's head through the window of a 1998 Chevy Malibu, broken his arm by closing it in the door, and placed him in a surprisingly firm chokehold. Sam is all geared up to apologize, and it takes him a second of hearing the man snarl and seeing his pitch-black eyes to switch over to combat mode and begin the exorcism. He isn't even a fourth of the way into it, however, when the demon abruptly exorcises itself into a storm drain and vanishes, leaving one violently battered and baffled gentleman, several terrified customers, and three profoundly fucked up brothers who have little to offer in the way of explanation. Sam can tell from the pitch of the panicked shouts of the customers that the police will be arriving in minutes. Dean doesn't even ask; he is already in the driver's seat and screeching the car around so that Sam can toss Adam (no, really, he full-on throws the kid) into the backseat and leap in himself. It is a narrow escape.

They take a few seconds to catch their collective breath. "What the fuck was that?" Dean says.

"Demon," Adam replies. He swears Dean saw the exorcism. He should know this already.

"No crap! I meant you: what the fuck were you thinking?" Dean spits.

Oh. Adam tries to explain it to Dean. "There was a demon. It was evil. I had to kill it." It is a fairly simple explanation, but then, Adam thought it was a fairly obvious concept, and one that Dean already grasped.

"I… friggin'… I'm asking…" He gives up. "Sam!"

Sam takes over, the eye in the center of Hurricane Winchester; all calm voice and zero accusation. "Adam, I'm pretty sure what Dean is trying to ask here can be divided into several questions. One, how did you know that was a demon? Two, why did you feel like you had to kill it right then? Three—"

"Where the Hell did you learn to fight like that? 'Cause you beat the crap out of that demon, man. That was some grade-A Jason Bourne shit back there." He sounds impressed, and Adam is thrilled. He knows Dean cares about him, but he has never heard Dean speak to him like that before. It sounds almost like pride, and it makes him buzz like he's charged with enough static electricity to power a small city.

"Okay, uhhh… one. First one. I can… see in people. Or… through them, I guess. It's kind of hard to… put into words. But I can tell. If a person is a person, or if there's something else in there. Next one…" He is still having trouble figuring out why this needs to be explained. "…it was evil. Evil has to be destroyed. Last one… I don't know. I don't know how I know anything."

The familiar hum of the Impala fills the air for a few seconds while everyone chews on this news. Finally, Dean swallows. "Alright. That first one'll come in handy. And I can get behind the whole 'evil needs to be destroyed' thing, but you can't just full-on attack demons wherever you see them!"

"Why not?" Adam asks.

"Because people will see you, and it'll look like you're some psychopath who attacks people for no reason," Dean replies.

"It wasn't for no reason. That guy was a demon."

Dean sighs. "Okay, you know that, and I know that, but the rest of those people—the rest of the world for that matter—don't even know demons exist, let alone that they ride around in people's bodies."

Adam pauses for a second, turning this over in his mind. "…then we should probably tell them."

Dean laughs, which is odd, because Adam wasn't trying to be funny. "That's not really an option."

"Why not?" Adam asks again.

"Because… because people… you can't just… they're…"

This time, Dean doesn't even have to ask; Sam picks up for him. "Adam, the vast majority of people in the world have no idea that anything supernatural actually exists, and it's not just that they don't believe in it—they don't want to believe in it. They don't want to know that there are monsters out there, things that defy description, that see them as nothing more than a meal, or a meatsuit to wear for kicks." Sam turns around in his seat to look Adam in the eyes. "You can't make people believe something they don't want to believe, even if it's true. So if they see you run in and start wailing on some guy, they're gonna wonder why. If you tell them the guy was a demon, they've got two options—believe you, and acknowledge that demons are real, or don't believe you, and just assume you're crazy and you need to be locked up. 99% of the time, they're gonna go with the second one. A lot of them will do it even if they see the demon crawl out of the guy's mouth."

"Exactly. And the last thing we need is to have to bust you out of jail, or worse—out of the nuthouse." Despite the fact that he's pretty obviously being scolded, he can't help but feel a little better at Dean's unspoken assertion—but we'd do it anyway. "So you can't just be a freakin' attack dog, kick ass dog you might be. You've got to rein it in, dude. And as for your little karate kid act back there… I don't know for sure, but I can say one thing." His voice becomes strangely distant. "Your face… when you were doing it… I've seen it before. Only once, but I won't be forgetting it any time soon. It was uhhh…" He trails off. "…it was how you looked at Stull." Adam doesn't know what a Stull is, but the way Dean says it and the way Sam shifts in ways Adam can't quite put into words upon hearing it… he doesn't think it's anything good. "Anyway… you got a lot of stuff locked up in that head of yours. I think it's time we bust you open and see what we can't pull out." He must have caught Adam's eye-bulge in the rearview mirror because he quickly amends, "…errr, you know, metaphorically."

They take him to a motel that night, a seedy, gross little place that smells like twelve different flavors of smoke and every chemical except cleaner. The air inside their room is particularly bad—Dean makes some kind of comment about his 'virgin lungs,' but Adam misses most of it because he can't stop coughing for a few minutes.

He sits down to watch the news, only to see a familiar face. "Sam, Dean!" he says, inexplicably excited. "Look! I'm on TV."

"We're continuing to follow a breaking story just outside of La Grange this evening. Police say a violent attack took place at the Pump-and-Go Gas Station on the corner of Highway 126 and North Cherokee Street. Channel 6 was able to obtain surveillance video of the incident, which shows an unidentified man brutally assaulting 34-year-old Alan Carver of Decatur with seemingly no provocation. As you can see, the camera appears to malfunction at this point, but according to witnesses, the suspect fled the scene with two other men in a Black Chevy Impala…"

Adam doesn't get to hear the rest of the story, as his brothers are too busy cursing and tossing everything (including Adam) back into the car. They leave without checking out.

On the road, Sam sits in the back with Adam and gives him a haircut and a pair of round black-rimmed glasses to wear. Dean calls him Harry Potter for the rest of the trip.

"The police are after you now," Sam explains. "They know what you look like, and believe me, they aren't going to take 'demonic possession' as an excuse for assault. The heat will probably be off in a week or so, but until then, you need to look like someone else." Adam can only lament the loss of his hair. He kind of liked it long.

Several hours later, they arrive at a slightly less disgusting motel. Adam wants to sleep, but Dean makes him help them move the beds aside and clear the middle of the room for… something. "Alright, buddy," Dean says, walking in a slow circle around Adam, for reasons he does not understand. "This is how it's going down. We're gonna conduct a few tests; try to figure out a few things. But you don't need to worry about the specifics…" Dean comes to a stop in front of him. "…you just do whatever comes naturally. Got it?"

Adam nods. "Got it."

Dean socks him in the mouth.

Adam staggers for a couple of seconds. "Ow!" He cries with a look of betrayal. "Wh-why did you hit me?"

Sam quickly inserts himself between them, looking at Dean in horror. "Yeah, Dean," Sam agrees, "why did you hit him?" His brows have gone down, and his eyes have gone up, in an expression Adam decides to refer to as whatthefuckpissed.

"I don't know!" Dean shouts, having the decency to at least look guilty. "I thought he'd go Bourne and block it or something!"

"Not if you don't warn him!" Sam looks like he wants to sock Dean. Normally, Adam would be against it, but his jaw is really sore. That was just… mean.

"Well, you got any better ideas? We need to figure out what he can do, Sam."

"What he can do? You're talking about him like he's some kind of weapon! You're not thinking of taking him on a hunt, are you?" Sam is really getting riled up now. He rises to his full height, and Adam hasn't realized until now just how much of his massive frame Sam usually keeps folded up.

Dean rises up to meet him, and Adam notices that Dean is much taller than he looks most of the time. He probably only seems so short to everyone because he's always standing next to Sam. "Sam, the kid is a walking angel-radar. He's got X-Ray spirit vision, and he knows kung-fu. He can help us in ways we never even dreamed of, Sam; we'd be stupid not to use him!"

Sam takes a step towards Dean, anger rising off of him and distorting the air like he's a superheated strip of highway. "Do you hear yourself when you say shit like this? He's not a thing to be used, Dean! He's a fucking person, he's our brother!"

Dean steps forward as well, the two creating a feedback loop of pissed-off vibes that is starting to overwhelm him. In his mind, the clouds darken and begin to close in on him, threatening to overtake him completely. Dean must have caught wind of his distress because for just a second, he looks past Sam, directly at Adam, and winks. Everything's gonna be okay. Then he is back to Sam again. "The kid's got some kind of mojo going on, Sam. We might as well do something with it."

Sam is furious. "Oh, so it's bad for me to use my powers, better stay away from those, but if Adam gets some kind of useful angel mojo, that's just fucking fantastic. You are such a goddamn hypocrite, I can't even believe—"

"Don't call me a hypocrite!" Dean growls and shoves Sam in the chest, and thunder rumbles in Adam's mind. Sam shoves back, and the vapors of tension in the room ignite into a full-blown inferno. Dean punches Sam in the stomach, and Adam's mental landscape is illuminated by a brilliant flash of lightning. Everything after that just happens automatically, almost in stop-motion: Adam is intercepting Dean's arm, Adam is elbowing him in the face, Adam is kicking his legs out from under him and flipping him onto his back, Adam's foot is implanted into Dean's gut.

"Holy shit," Sam breathes, his anger forgotten in the face of what just happened. Adam looks a bit surprised himself.

As for Dean, he lies on the ground, somehow looking humiliated, impressed, and smug all at once. It's quite a feat. "Ow."

The 'tests' continue on into the night, and they manage to discover several things—for one, Adam is awesome at hand-to-hand. Every time he and Dean spar, Dean is the one who winds up on the ground. When Dean is momentarily too sore to continue, Sam takes over, and Adam takes him down as well (albeit reluctantly).

"Can we stop?" Adam asks. "I'm not… I don't like hurting you guys."

Sam chuckles. "Believe me, Adam, if you were really hurting us, we'd tell you. We can take it."

Adam wants to trust him, but then Sam hands him a friggin' knife.

Weapons experimentation yields about the same result. Not only can Adam use (with shocking proficiency) just any weapon they put into his hand, but he can turn just about anything into a weapon. When Adam jams a pen into Dean's hand, everyone agrees that is as good a place as any to stop for the night.

It took a while to perfect their sleeping arrangement. Dean is a flopper: if you were to take a video of him while he sleeps and fast forward it, he'd look like a fish out of water, bouncing around every part of the matress. Sam is a sprawler: his giant, gangly body acts like a liquid and spreads out to fill the shape of whatever bed he is in completely. And of course, just to complete the circle of life, Adam turns out to be a cuddler. If there is a soft, warm thing in the bed with him, he latches onto it and is about as easy to peel off as industrial-strength Velcro. And as much as his brothers love him, neither of them is quite willing to serve as his personal teddy bear on a regular basis. So one of them sleeps on a pallet on the floor (or the couch, in the rare case of a room that has one) every night, on a rotating, night-by-night basis.

Tonight, Adam is on the floor, even though it isn't his night—Dean demanded a bed on behalf of his bruised, aching body, and after enduring Sam calling him a pansy and feeble old woman for a half hour, Adam decided to let him have it. He tries in vain to catch some sleep—after the sparring session, he should be exhausted. But something is twinging in his mind, and he feels strangely unnerved.

Sam opens his eyes to find Adam standing at the foot of his bed, looking awkward. "Adam?" he slurs, his muscles not having caught up with his mind. "Whasswrong?"

Adam shakes his head, unable to put it into words. "Dunno. Just… feel weird."

"You okay?" Sam asks, sitting up a little.

Adam shrugs.

Sam takes a second to look around. Dean is well and truly out—Sam learned to tell when Dean was in deep, dark, dead-to-the-world sleep pretty early, out of necessity. After confirming his brother's unconsciousness, he looks back to Adam. "Wanna sleep in the bed?" he asks.

Adam nods.

"Hop in," Sam says with a sleepy grin. Dean will give him Hell over this in the morning, but if it comes to it, Sam can always just tell Adam to kick Dean's ass. The kid's had a hard day, and if he wants to use Sam as a six-foot-odd stuffed animal, Sam figures he can let him get away with it just this once. He is his big brother, after all, and that's what big brothers do. Sometimes.

Of course, Sam misreads Adam. It is not for himself that Adam is worried… but after a bit of thinking, he thinks this might work to his advantage. He pretends to sleep, turning his head away from the door, and waits. And waits. And waits. Just listening to the whispers, until he feels the door open, hears the sound of the salt line being breached, the almost impossibly light footfalls on the stained carpet. He waits while the blade is raised, waits until it is on its way down.

Then, he strikes.

He jolts out of the way, grabbing the sheets and using them to intercept the knife, which stabs straight through them and into the mattress. His assailant is caught off-guard for a moment, and Adam uses it to twist the sheets around the knife and kick the guy's hand, expecting him to drop the weapon. Unfortunately, Adam might as well be kicking a steel beam for all the effect it has. An angel's strength is far beyond that of a human's, even when off his game, and Adam dives off the bed to avoid getting shanked.

"Abomination! Angel-killer!" the angel shouts as he wrenches his blade from the bed, shaking his arm ineffectually to try and dislodge it from the sheets. Sam, who woke up the second Adam moved the sheets, has retrieved Ruby's Knife and tosses it so that it lodges perfectly in the vessel's skull (the vessel being a middle aged man in a white button-down and what appears to be… a McDonald's cap?). He knows it won't have much of an effect, but it might buy some time and distract him for a bit.

The angel just tosses a casual hand at Sam, telekinetically knocking him against the wall. He falls to the ground, unconscious, and Adam's mental landscape is illuminated with an intense flame, making the thick fog seem more like smoke as familiar shapes and sigils begin to emerge in the firelight. Adam knows he needs to make these shapes, but there are so many of them, and these need to be drawn on the angel, not on himself, in order to work. Somehow, he doubts the angel will hold still long enough for him to paint them.

The angel yanks the knife from his forehead, the wound healing almost instantly, only to be re-opened by two gunshots, courtesy of Dean. The angel grinds his teeth. "Stay out of this. I will not provoke Castiel's wrath by killing you, but I will not have you interfering." He mojos Dean into the headboard of the bed, and he, too, falls onto the floor.

The distraction isn't much, but it is enough. By the time the angel turns his attention back to Adam, his hand is bleeding, and he is wearing what Dean now refers to as his 'Game Face.' The angel thrusts a hand at what remains of his former superior, but accomplishes little more than giving Adam a windswept hairdo. "Well, that's a surprise," he seethes. "So be it." He lunges, but Adam ducks underneath the horizontal swipe of his blade, socking him in the stomach with a coaster.

"Are you serious?" the angel sneers. "You cannot possibly believe you can hurt me with such things." Adam, who has dropped the coaster, darts to the side, picking up a square ashtray from beside the television. The angel goes for a straight thrust, but Adam simply twists his body around it and nails him in the ribs with the ashtray, dropping it as well. The angel swings his arm and manages to catch Adam in the stomach, sending him flying over the beds and crashing into a table, and it hurts like a bitch, but it's not enough to take him out. Instead, he simply looks on the floor around him, and picks up the remote control to the television.

"You arrogant little—"he leaps over the bed and tries to bring the blade down on Adam, but the boy rolls out of the way and jams the remote into his chest like he is trying to stab him with it. The angel tries to kick him, but his foot isn't fast enough, and Adam is on his feet again, ready for whatever comes next. "Hold still!" the angel commands, thrusting his hand out again. This time, it isn't for Adam, however, but for the television that he is standing next to, and Adam barely has time to bring up his arms before the appliance smashes into him. The impact sends him flying backwards, and he crashes into the bathroom door with enough force to smash it open and splinter the frame. His back screams at him to give up, but the fire inside drowns it out with a furious roar, and he rises again.

When the angel steps through the door, Adam gets him in the chest with both hands; one wielding a stick of Dean's deodorant, and the other, Sam's toothpaste. The angel tries to counter, but Adam dodges backwards and grabs his own toothbrush. The angel starts to move forward again, but a chair suddenly shatters over his head, courtesy of an awakened Sam. The angel thrusts another mojo-powered hand at his brother, but the distraction is the best gift Adam could ask for. Coating the brush in his blood, he leaps forward while the angelic assassin's attention is on Sam, and swipes it several times across the enemy's torso, his strokes as swift and certain as any swordsman's. The angel, upon noticing him, gives a wild swing which sends Adam soaring into the bathroom mirror, shattering it spectacularly and shredding his back. He falls to the ground, coughing painfully, his all-too-human body reaching its limits.

The Heavenly Servant steps forward, surveying his prey and preparing for the killing strike, when a piece of the broken mirror catches his eye, and he looks at his reflection. Every object Adam has hit him with has left an imprint—in blood. Individually, the shapes aren't much, but together, they begin to form… "You clever little sneak!" the angel says, sounding honestly impressed. The sigil is almost complete, too. The only thing really missing is—

Adam's bloody hand slams into the angel's chest, completing his thought. "OIAD LOAGAETH OI IZIZOP," Adam shouts, and immediately, the vessel tosses its head back as the angel is expelled from it, a luminous, amoeboid blob rising from every opening on his upturned face. When the blob doesn't vanish and seems to be partially stuck in the vessel, Adam realizes he must have screwed up something when making the sigil and that the angel will regain control soon. There is only one thing to do…

Grabbing a piece of the mirror, Adam jams it into hand still holding the Angel's Sword. Human reflexes take over and the hand spasms, tossing the blade a short distance away. With little time to spare, Adam rolls forward and grabs it, and just as the angel sinks back into his meatsuit, Adam sinks the blade into the angel's neck. The celestial being stares at him in utter shock for a second before Adam twists the knife, and the angel's grace detonates in a brilliant blast wave, tossing Adam back against the wall and shattering the room's only light fixture. He knows his body is over the limit, but he forces himself to remain aware just long enough to confirm it's over. The last thing he sees in the fading light as his eyes slide closed is the burn-marks on the blue bathroom tile, forming a perfect set of wings…

He comes to in the back of the moving Impala, and every part of his body takes the opportunity to shriek at him for blatantly abusing them in such a way. He groans.

"Hey, buddy, you awake back there?" Dean says, his voice inexplicably echoing in the car's interior.

"Adam? Are you alright? How're you feeling?" Sam adds, and Adam thinks that these are fantastically stupid questions, so he answers them all at once by groaning even louder. "Right, stupid question," Sam says, and Adam loves him a little more for getting the picture.

"Just go back to sleep, buddy," Dean says, his voice kinder and gentler than Adam has heard since his first meeting with him post-resurrection. "We'll get you fixed up as soon we can, I promise." Adam wants to go to sleep, but his back, arms, hands, leg, and most of his internal organs have something to say to his pain center, and will not be denied their right to free speech. He groans again.

He hears Sam fumbling around with something in the front seat before turning around and holding out his hand. "Here," he says, "take these. They should help." Adam opens his eyes long enough to see the pills Sam is offering, as well as Sam himself. His brother has some pretty impressive bruises and a nasty head wound. "You think I look bad?" Sam grins, as apparently he caught Adam staring. "Trust me, you look way worse."

Adam's kidneys loudly agree with Sam, and he fumbles for the pills, popping them in his mouth and taking the small bottle of water Sam offers him to wash them down. It takes entirely too long for his liking, but soon, all the whiners that make up his body are silenced one-by-one, and Adam falls back into blessed oblivion.

The next time Adam wakes up, he is half-naked and covered in bandages, and the first thing he notices is how much… sharper everything is. It's like the world is suddenly being broadcast in high definition and full stereo surround sound, where before he had to deal with standard def on a handheld television with a speaker the size of his thumb. Colors are sharper, stronger, more defined, and he sees detail wherever he looks. And it isn't just external—Adam's thoughts are much clearer than before. The fog in his brain seems to have lifted somewhat, the world made a little brighter. There is a conversation taking place in the next room. Before, he wouldn't have been able to hear it. Now, however, if he just focuses a bit…

"..chael was the Patron of Chivalry. Soldiers, police officers, warriors, guardians… defenders from all over the world have prayed to him for ages." Adam recognizes that voice—the gravel-rough baritone of Castiel.

"So… what? This stuff comes from Michael? He can remember Michael's judo chop, but he can't remember anything from his own life?" Dean's voice bounces around like the little kid he sometimes pretends to be.

"Actually, I've heard about this, Dean," the smooth tone of Sam is unmistakable. "Functional memories like riding a bike or tying your shoes—"

"—or knife fighting—"

"—can stick around even after other memories are lost."

"Right. Well, at least we've got that settled," Dean says. "Now, for the other thing. Cas, I know I tend to put a lot on you, but do you think you could try to keep the angels from killing our little brother for a while?"

Castiel's voice carries a hint of impatience. "Do you think I gave permission for any of the angels to come down here? I am having enough trouble keeping them from forming factions within the ranks and waging war on one another. I cannot possibly control every individual angel, Dean. I am not God."

Silence. Then Dean speaks. "We ever figure out what happened to him?"


"Ah, okay." More silence.

"I have brought you Angelic Blades. They should give you a better chance of fighting back if you should be attacked again. Just…" Castiel doesn't sigh, but it seems like he should. "…try to be careful. And let Adam do the killing, if possible."

"What?" Sam says.

"Adam is already marked for death by many, but you two were granted clemency when the Apocalypse ended. You have 'clean records' so to speak, so it is much less likely the angels will kill you. That will change if either of you personally kill another one."

"Man," Dean snorts. "Angel logic is weird."

"I assure you," Castiel retorts, "it has nothing on human logic in that department." Adam blinks. That is kind of funny. Is it supposed to be funny? Is Castiel being funny? "I must go. I fear I have already spent too long on earth, and there is much to be done."

"Wait!" Sam says. "Cas, I hate to keep you any longer, but before you go, do you think you could patch him up for us? That angel did a pretty good number on him."

"Certainly. I apologize for not thinking to do so myself."

Adam doesn't particularly think he needs patching up until he actually tries to move and his body gives him the sensory equivalent of a big "FUCK, NO." He decides to sit very, very still and let the angel do his thing.

Adam slowly but surely begins to sort himself out. He doesn't regain any memories, not really, but more frequent flashes of things he once knew begin to come to him. The mist in his mind lifts more and more, and his thoughts flow more freely. And as his lucidity increases bit by bit, his brothers begin to treat him as less of a basket case.

Dean puts himself in charge of Adam's pop culture education. He started off making him watch movies every day, but they had to put a hold on that after Adam, in Dean's words, 'ruined Star Wars forever.' He didn't see what the big deal was—all he did was point out how sloppy their technique was. And then he pointed out all the places where he, in an actual fight, would have easily killed them. And then he tried to get Dean to explain why they acted as though swords made of insubstantial light carried so much weight. And… well, he had other questions, but that was the point where Dean stormed out of the room. He would have asked Sam, but Sam was laughing hard enough to pass as an asthmatic donkey with the sounds he was making. Now, Dean makes him watch 2 hours of TV per day and quizzes him every night after TMZ.

Sam makes him read, lets him help with research and pouring over lore; since Adam is regularly the target of kidnapping/assassination attempts, it doesn't make much sense to keep him away from hunting. One of the first things he starts reading is his father's journal. Adam doesn't remember John Winchester, but he feels an immediate connection to the man as he reads. He asks Sam if his dad really fought everything in that book, and Sam's affirmative reply brings a smile to Adam's face. His father was a hero. When he asks about the odd, distant expression that falls over Sam like a shroud when he says as much, Sam just shakes his head.

"If there is one thing about dad you remember, I think that's a great one to pick," he replies, and Adam figures by his tone that they should probably leave it there.

In terms of actual hunting, things go fairly well. Dean is eager to teach and, at times, a little too eager to find opportunities for Adam to demonstrate his combat prowess. Sam, on the other hand, has a strange need to protect Adam from danger, which is odd considering that Adam can fight circles around him. Adam has the opposite problem, and needs to protect Sam, who is very indignant about the whole thing, because seriously; he doesn't need two Big Brothers, especially when one of them is his Little Brother. Their roles are divided pretty much evenly—Sam and Dean handle most of the cons and human interaction, as Adam still has a bit of trouble acting 'normal.' Adam, in return, handles pretty much all close-quarters combat situations, and uses his X-ray spirit vision to spot incorporeal ghosts and the possessed. Sam and Dean still handle firearms—Adam can use them if he needs to, but for some reason, he just doesn't like them. Dean jokes that his Michael side probably thinks they're dishonorable or something, and Adam laughs, but something inside tells him that he isn't too far off the mark.

The Almost-Apocalypse leaves a lot of ugly scars and a lot of nasty, violent deaths in its wake, so hauntings are all-too-plentiful. Adam quickly learns that whatever inoculates him against angel powers is no help when it comes to spirits, and that little incident earns him a nice set of stitches on his left bicep, which turns into his first real hunting scar; something that thrills Dean to no end and gets him a firm talking-to about proper spirit engagement procedure from Sam.

Other hunts run the gamut—the brothers encounter their first actual Trickster in the form of Coyote, the Native American spirit. He has quite a bit of fun with them, but relents surprisingly easily when he finds out they were friends of Loki, and the 'hunt' ends with the four of them sharing a drink while Sam and Dean narrate their many encounters with the Not-Norse Non-God and Coyote literally howls with laughter. When he hears the name Gabriel, there is an inexplicable rush of fondness and warmth that spreads through Adam's veins like he's been injected with hot cocoa. He wishes he could have met the guy, and for a moment, he misses someone he has never even known.

Later, they find a forest stalked by not one, but two Wendigos. At first, they assume the two are hunting together, but the second they actually meet, the problem solves itself as their assumption is proven wrong and the two basically eat each other to death. Turns out, Wendigos are pretty territorial.

Then, they purge a growing little town's sewer system of some kind of primordial ancient slime thing which is apparently made at least partially of vinegar judging by how it reacts with baking soda. The mess will take months to clean up, and Adam almost feels bad for not sticking around to help. Almost.

There is a werewolf possessed by a demon; a thing so savage that not even Adam can out-fight it, and the fact that he tries earns him a couple more scars and a nearly hour-long lecture which quickly becomes the most terrifying display of anger from Sam that he has ever seen; a demonic werewolf has nothing on a pissed-off, overprotective Winchester. There is a haunted train, and the resolution of that case makes Adam decide that he likes cars and will ride in nothing else forever. There is a backwoods survivalist vampire, who Dean kills by stuffing a live grenade in his mouth; something that he will not stop bragging about. There is a ghost doctor diagnosing people who can't afford anyone else, and even though he seems sincere about helping people, they have to exorcise him anyway simply because his medical knowledge stops at 1920 and he's doing more harm than good at this point. There is even an honest-to-God unicorn, which causes Sam to be insufferably smug for weeks; turns out, they're extinct in America, but fairly common in Europe, and this one is an import.

And of course, there are the angels. Castiel keeps armies most of them at bay, but he cannot stop all of the Heavenly Host. There are always cracks, and those slippery enough to slip through them. So, every so often, maybe once every third or fourth hunt, an angel will catch their scent and start tracking them. The Winchesters try using banishing sigils at first, but those are only a temporary solution, and they usually just result in the angels coming back pissed—sometimes with reinforcements. Eventually, fights are inevitable. These fights are not always clean; Adam might have the skills of a War God, but his strength is still firmly in the mortal range, and the Angels are practically made of steel. But Castiel's Angelic Blades and Adam's flashes of Enochian magic are enough to counter most of their mojo. Adam may end the fights bloody and sore and limping, but every angel that comes after them—whether they are another self-righteous dick with a penchant for smiting, or a deranged Michael fan who wants their idol back—winds up little more than a burst of white light, an empty vessel, and scorched earth in the shape of feathers.

Hunt-by-hunt, they blaze a path across the country, and Adam stands a little taller, beams a little more proudly with every evil-son-of-a-bitch they take down. He feels good… maybe even righteous. A strange, but stable rapport develops between the brothers, and things are good. Too good to last, a traitorous voice in the back of his mind whispers, and Adam hates it. But somewhere in the dark corners of his consciousness, hidden in the last vestiges of the mental fog, is the bone-deep knowledge that even though he loves his brothers, he cannot keep them. He will fight for them as long as he can, but deep down, Adam knows; the end is coming.

It is an absolutely beautiful day when it arrives. They have just finished hunting down and snuffing out a Hell Hound gone feral, and the hunt ended with surprisingly few bite marks and no rabies shots needed, so all-in-all, pretty successful. The brothers are in a small (is it ever not?) Virginia town, and Adam has just (re)discovered his love for Philly Cheesesteak. "Omph mmmhh Ghhhhd," he says through a mouthful of some of the most delicious beef ever. "This is freaking incredible."

Dean reclines in the booth opposite Adam, Sam by his side. "Ah, Sammy… the only thing better than enjoying it," he says to Sam, "is watching the next generation discover it for themselves." He sniffs loudly. "Almost brings a tear to my eye."

Adam tries not to choke. "Dude, you want to wear this sandwich? Don't make me laugh while I'm eating."

"I swear, you two are like black holes," Sam says as he snacks on French fries. "Where do you put all that food?"

"Well, me personally, I work it off. Little gravedigging here, little running for my life there, some alligator wrestling on the side, you know, stuff like that." Dean's famous shit-eating grin makes a rare appearance. They are becoming less rare, these days. He calls Lisa and Ben, and at first the conversations were short and tense and apologetic. But Dean has more good news these days, and Lisa, though she was always sympathetic and willing to bend, is finally getting to a place where she genuinely understands the ties that bind Dean to his brothers. That alone is enough for Adam to like her. "Adam, what about you?" Dean says after taking another bite just so he can talk out of the side of his mouth.

"Me?" He shrugs. "Well, my hobbies are mostly kicking asses and taking names. And I gotta tell you—taking names? Harder than you think." Dean snickers, and Sam huffs out a half-laugh.

"Kind of running out of asses to kick lately, aren't you?" Sam asks. "It's been quiet lately."

Dean looks appalled. "Dude. You did not just say that. Tell me you did not just say that."

Sam gives him the 'I don't speak Dean' look. "What are you talking about?"

"You can't say that! You never say that! The second you start talking about how quiet things are, the second they decide to get loud again. Happens every time." He gives a pitying shake of his head. "Come on, Sam! You've watched TV before; I've seen you do it. You should know this stuff."

"Hey," Adam interjects, tapping his temple. "Angelic Police Scanner, right here. There's been next-to-nothing on the network for a couple of weeks now." He smiles, because seriously. He was ready for them to shut up already. "Sam's right."

Sam returns his grin. "Looks like your 15 minutes of fame are finally up." Sam sits up taller (show off) in his seat. "Brother," he says imperiously, "I officially declare you a has-been. You're free to live and die in obscurity."

"Thank God," Adam says. He raises a toast to anonymity and his brothers second.

"Well, I don't know about that," a rough, but energetic voice says from behind Sam and Dean. "There's always the odd die-hard fan that just… refuses to let go." Dean just had to be right, didn't he?

Dean immediately goes for his weapon, only to get a pistol jammed into the side of his head. A thin, balding old man in a very rumpled suit that looks like it hasn't been changed in about three weeks holds the pistol surprisingly steady against his brother's skull. Three more men in similarly worn attire are positioned around the diner, one shotgun aimed at Sam (he dies first), and two rifles at the exits, keeping an eye on the waitresses and the one other customer besides the Winchesters. "Nobody move!" they shout.

"Dude," Dean says through clenched teeth. "What happened to your angel radar?"

Adam looks like he has just seen a purple elephant with a snake for a trunk. "They're not angels," he says. "Not anymore."

"My Lord," the thin one with the pistol says with reverence. "I have been watching you."

"Creepy," Dean says, and gets pistol-whipped for his trouble (thin one dies second).

"Even so diminished, your Grace is unmistakable. It burns like no other," he continues, fawning at him like an over-excited schoolgirl, and Adam has had it.

"Look, enough, okay? I'm serious. Enough! You like me so much, take a picture. We'll make it into a poster and you can put it over your bed or something!"

"My Lord, we have come for you…" he continues as if he hasn't heard a word Adam has said.

"I didn't ask for you to come for me! I didn't ask for anything from you guys! I don't want to talk to you, I don't want to hear from you, I don't even really want to kill you!" Okay, that last one is a lie, but he's willing to let this slide if these assholes will just fuck off and leave him in peace. "Go away. You can't win. You know you can't win." He gestures towards the guns as though the angels are threatening him with rubber chickens. "Do you even know how to use those?"

One of the angels near the exits fires his rifle directly into a waitress's forehead, spraying chunks of her all over the bar. "We learned," he says like it's supposed to be impressive.

Adam feels his inner fire explode into an inferno, and he dulls it into a carefully controlled fury. These jackholes just sealed their fate—he would not suffer a single one of them to live. He rises, but the Thin Man just presses the pistol harder into Dean's temple. "No, my Lord, we did not come here to fight. You and your brothers will come with us. If you come peacefully, no one else will be hurt. If you do not, we will kill them, and anyone else we can hit in the time it takes for you to finish us."

Adam practically glows with righteous fury. "Adam!" Sam says. "Dude, you're glowing!" Oh. So he actually is glowing. That's new. "Calm down. Listen to me; don't worry about us. Cas can bring us back. Worry about them," Sam says, jerking his head towards the kitchen staff and the one customer huddled in a corner together.

"Actually, I was just about to address that. See," the Thin Man sneers, "we arranged a little surprise for you gentlemen waiting on the other side. Castiel cannot resurrect you if he doesn't have your souls… and trust me. Once you're delivered into the arms of my friends upstairs, they'll take your spirits to a place where not even God could hear you scream."

"You're all dead," Adam grits. "I swear I'll kill every last one of you." He should probably add 'if they harm anyone else,' but the truth is that Adam resolved to kill them the second that waitress's soul left her body, and even though he's started acting much more 'normal' lately, he still finds it astoundingly difficult to lie.

"My Lord, I tell you the truth," the Thin Man says, sincerity pouring off of his face. "If you come with us now, you won't have to."

With his head held high and his jaw clenched, Adam looks to his brothers. Sam gives a solemn nod. Dean winks. Smartass. "Fine," he says. "Let's go."

It is nightfall by the time they actually arrive. Their destination is an abandoned barn, covered in sigils which Adam recognizes as powerful non-detection runes. No angel will be able to find them there. He waits until they start to head inside to make his move. Adam enters first, a rifle aimed at his back. Since he knows they won't shoot him, it takes a split second for the rifle to enter his hands and the butt to enter his handler's face, knocking him out. Dean's guy has his throat caved in by a perfectly aimed swing from the rifle, and in the same second, Adam has it aimed and ready to take out Sam's attacker. Sadly, he failed to account for one thing: Sam's spectacular height and the angle of Adam's shot makes it impossible for him to actually hit the guy. "Please, put it down," Thin Man says, his eyes wide and wet with… what, pity? Sympathy? "I promise this will not take long."

Adam briefly contemplates shooting him. He has a clean shot. But if the leader goes down, the remaining mook will have little reason not to gift Sam with a sparkly new hole, and that, he cannot risk. He drops the rifle, and returns to the farmhouse. It wasn't a total waste; there's at least one that won't be getting back up. He can hear him gurgling and gasping on the ground, his neck smashed in beyond repair. They're human now: they die just like any other creature made of meat, and all you need to know is where to hit them. Unfortunately, his handler was not quite as unconscious as he had hoped, and soon, both Sam and Dean are held hostage again—at a distance, this time. At least they learn from their mistakes…

"Alright, we're here. What do you want?" Adam sighs. The guy is going to monologue, he knows it. Angels talk more than anything they hunt. It gives whole new meaning to the term 'preachy.'

"To give you a gift, my lord!" Thin Man smiles in a sickeningly sycophantic manner. "When I first heard that you had been… reduced to your current form, my heart broke." His face takes a dramatic dive into despair, all wobbly lips and teary eyes. To most it would seem like mockery—to Adam, it is just a poor imitation, one from someone who understands the concept of sadness, but not the thing itself. "To see it myself infuriated me, and I very nearly sought to execute you out of pity."

"Well, thanks for giving me a rain check on that one," Adam deadpans.

"You are welcome," the Thin Man continues, apparently immune to sarcasm. "Now, as I was saying, I was close to putting you out of your misery myself, but then…" His face practically sparkles as he speaks in awe. "Then… I watched you kill." He looks at Adam with eyes that shine with worship, and Adam wants to vomit. "One of our brothers attacked you, and even though you lacked your power, your strength, your invincibility… you triumphed. The kill itself was magnificent, a testament to your glory—even so diminished, you are unsurpassed." Out of the corner of his eye, he catches Dean mouthing 'blah blah blah, yap yap yap,' and screwing up his face. Sam rolls his eyes and elbows Dean sharply, and Adam tries not to laugh. God, he loves them so freaking much.

"And then… something happened. The light you once held, the flame that had almost flickered out and burned so pathetically dim… brightened." Adam snaps to attention again, and dread begins to press down upon him as the ex-angel speaks. "It was subtle, difficult for the undiscerning angel to detect, and many told me that I was insane, but I knew saw it. I continued to watch you, and soon found… I was right!" He turns to Adam's brothers. "Did you not notice? You, who claim to love him… did you not see that each time an angel fell at his hands, his power grew? His mind, his brilliance, his soul so shattered… did you think they simply healed on their own?" His face twists in a mocking smirk. "Did you think that you could fix him?"

"Shut up," Adam growls, because this is crap. It isn't true. He isn't some… thing that grows stronger by killing. He doesn't believe it, and neither do his brothers. Except… Adam sees Sam's face, screwed up in deep thought, and Dean is starting to look sick. No. No.

"No, no," Thin Man says, turning to walk over to a barrel in the corner of the barn. "You did not need anything these mud monkeys could offer you." He reaches down inside, and pulls up a large wine bottle full of some kind of luminous substance that makes Adam sick to his stomach as he looks at it. "The only medicine you need... the cure for what ails you… Grace." Thin Man taps the bottle, grinning at the chime it makes. "You absorbed a tiny bit from each angel you killed, and each time, the essence washed away a bit more of that pitiful boy's garbage soul, letting your true spirit shine!" He smiles at Adam, naked desperation for approval written all over his face. "Once I revealed this fact to a few of my brothers, I was able to find a few who were more than willing to 'Fall' for you, my liege." He gestures to his companions. "We bled ourselves dry of Grace, each of us, so you would have more. Catching a whiff of Grace from a dying angel is one thing, but to have a full transfusion, given willingly by several… it is not enough to restore you fully to your former power. But it is more than enough to… purify you of the human that stains your essence. And once this unsightly tumoron your soul is eradicated fully, you will at last become the Archangel Michael once again, glorious and undefeated. The usurper will be cast down, and you will reign, as it was, and as it should be!"

Adam feels sick. To be something that draws strength from killing... it is not an easy pill to swallow. But to hear that he is becoming less human with each kill is even worse. "You know what? Fuck you. I happen to like my humanity, thanks. So I won't be drinking your Grace, or anyone else's. But hey, thanks for the heads up!" he says. "Next time I kill an angel, I'll wear a mouth guard or something."

"I thought you might be hesitant at first," Thin Man continues, understanding in his eyes. "You are still influenced by your humanity—it is attached to this place, these people. Never fear, my Lord: I planned for this." With that, he lazily pulls the pistol from his suit coat and fires it into Sam's stomach. Sam gapes for a few seconds, momentarily forgetting how to breathe as he collapses in pain and shock. Dean gives something halfway between a roar and a scream falls to tend to him. Adam slips into full Game Face mode and stalks towards Thin Man, all thoughts set on his immediate, painful demise. "Even if you kill me," he says, simply. "It won't save him. There isn't a hospital for miles around. The sigils on this room and on your body hide you from angelic eyes. There are no roads, no cars, no hospitals… no hope…" He raises the glowing bottle. "…except you." Adam stops his advance, growing as still and silent as the grave. "If you were to take this Grace, you would have the power to heal your brother, to save him." Thin Man actually has the gall to look excited, but the inevitability of the situation muffles Adam's fury. "Of course, you would have to wash away any remaining… oh, bother. What was his name? Alex? Artie? Bah, no matter. Whoever he is, he will cease to exist when you drink this. But really, which is more important? Your humanity? Or your brothers' lives?" He offers the bottle to Adam, who hesitates only for a moment, before snatching it from his hand. The gentle, ethereal glow reflects in his eyes as he stares into the liquid light, and he imagines that this is how it would feel to look at a world-wrecking meteor as it descends towards Earth. His eyes find the rapidly growing pool of blood around Sam, the red streaks on his chin where it continues to dribble from his mouth, the look of terrible fear and sorrow in his eyes. They search out Dean, who keeps looking back and forth between Sam and Adam like someone is making him choose, wearing a face that can only be described as no, no, not again, please, please, please not again. The last of the mist evaporates, and Adam sees the end.

"Sam… Dean…" he says, the light in his eyes looking like two freight trains headed for a collision. Adam's face is the wreckage. "I'm sorry."

"Adam, no!" Sam gurgles, his voice thick with blood.

"Kid, don't do this," Dean pleads, but it is already done.

The world slips into slow motion, as Adam takes a shuddering breath and hurls the bottle to the ground with all his might, shattering it into thousands of pieces. The pearly white cloud spreads out in a small radius around him and he immediately feels a connection to it. It resonates with parts of him he didn't even know existed, and he opens his mouth in invitation, closing his eyes as it spirals into him. He feels it immediately—his cells are electrified, frozen, and enflamed all at once as the spiritual energy filters through flesh to reach spirit, turning his skin a luminous moon-white. He won't be able to hold this off for long. "Run!" he yells. The building groans, the old wood buckling and splintering under forces it was never designed to withstand. The light fixtures explode from being overloaded, and the steady glow of bulbs is replaced by spark showers at odd intervals. The power is already beginning to take hold, and in a flash, he is at one rifleman, breaking his leg with a single neat kick, and snapping his neck as he falls to his knees. Another flash, and he is at the other rifleman, ripping the gun from his grasp with enough force to pull both shoulders out of their sockets and using the end to split his head as neatly as if it were an axe. "Hurry!" he shouts, hating the high-pitched whine that fills the air as his awakening second voice joins in. Dean helps Sam up, and with a final, aching look back at him, they run, their steps unstable as the very earth shudders beneath them.

"He returns!" Thin Man cries, and he is fucking bouncing about it. "My Lord returns!"

Adam looks over to him with a fury like no other. He feels himself being stretched and pulled in impossible directions, his physical form tearing at the seams, but he holds together through sheer will. This douchenozzle dies while he is still human. Adam flashes in front of him and rams his arm through his stomach, reaching up into his ribcage and wrapping fingers around his heart. "MALPRG IO-IAD," he roars with both voices fueled with every ounce of fury he can muster. Thin Man screams exquisitely as his entire body is immolated from within; intense flames begin to blast out of his mouth, his eye sockets, his nostrils, from every single orifice. His flesh cracks and fire blooms from the openings, Adam channeling rage and hatred into the inferno until the intensity of the power finally overcomes him. Thin Man explodes spectacularly, and Adam screams as his world is eclipsed by white…

Dean and Sam dive into a deep ditch just before the blast wave hits. Sam throws his arm up to protect his eyes from the light, and Dean throws himself over Sammy to protect him from… well, everything. When the horrible luminescence finally subsides, Dean sticks his head up to take a peak, and sees a smoldering crater where the barn used to be. Flaming bits of wood fall in an unpredictable rain as far as Dean can see, while streams of fire swirl in an unseen wind, forming spirals and helixes in the night air. Two particularly bright plumes of flame snake downwards and seem to take a shape almost like wings before vanishing. The smoke rises high into the night sky, blocking the sight of the enormous, unusually bright full moon. A voice inside of Dean's head that sounds suspiciously like his father reminds him that there are werewolves on the prowl somewhere tonight. They are out in the wilderness, exposed, vulnerable, but Dean can't think about that right now. His thoughts are focused on his brothers, as they almost always are. And while part of him is already mourning, another part is just so, so tired of losing people that it can't allow him to process any more grief, and just shuts him down. His face is blank; his eyes just stare off into space. A soft moan from Sam brings him back to reality, for the moment, and he falls into the familiar dance. "Sammy? You alright?"

"Little lightheaded," Sam deadpans. He coughs up blood, but seems largely unperturbed, and Dean kind of agrees with him. This has become disturbingly regular for them. Doesn't mean he likes it.

"Well, you sprung a pretty bad leak here. Lots of stuff flowing out." The blood has soaked through his shirts and into his jacket, and they probably left a sizeable trail of it during their rapid retreat. Sam needs that stuff, but there's no real way to get it back in him. "We've got to plug you up, or you're gonna go flat. Like a tire." The joke falls flat as well, but it gets Sam to roll his eyes, so at least he knows he's still conscious.

"I think I can help with that," Adam's voice says from above them.

Dean's head snaps around to the source. The shock of the moment fills him with a terrible hope (and really, hope is more terrible than anything sometimes). Sure enough, Adam stands at the edge of the ditch, completely unharmed as far as anyone can see. But Dean is not anyone, Dean's eyes are trained, and Dean sees deeper; the look on his face is all wrong. It's not the wide-eyed innocence and confusion that Dean had seen on him for so long, not the bright, happy grin he wore when Sam gave him attention or the intense focus he displayed when Dean tried to teach him why it was important to people what Paris Hilton did with her weekends. It was not the raw ferocity he wore while handing demons their own hindquarters, the naked joy at finding something he was good at or something that he enjoyed, or the slowly emerging glow of confidence as he proved himself over and over again. It was… nothing. Dean had watched Adam transform from a terrified, broken shell of a boy to a wisecracking, capable young hunter, but no matter where he was along the line, the one expression that Adam never wore was blank. Kid was practically a living mood ring—hell, sometimes he even changed colors (red, mostly). No, Dean knows; his brother is gone. Angels are blank. Angels are emotionless, cold, mechanical. Adam has been washed away, and Michael is now here to stay.


Except that when Michael drops into the ditch beside them and Dean gets a closer look, what seemed like a blank look in his eyes seems a lot less so when Dean can see how shiny they are, almost like there's a lot of moisture caught in them or something. And when Ada—Michael kneels next to Sam and lays a hand on his face, his head is bowed and his eyes are closed in what looks like honest, reverent prayer; the kind Sam used to send up before everything got so bad. And when Dean feels a gentle brush of what can only be feathers, it feels almost like he's protecting them… sheltering them… hugging them…

His last thought before the lights go out is that he didn't remember Michael being so girly.

When they come to, Dean and Sam are in the Impala, same seats as always. It's still night, and the old girl is parked outside the diner, just where they left her. A quick glance over to the diner itself shows the blood on the windows has been cleaned off… but no cops, no crime scene tape, no anything, really. As a matter of fact, the diner seems to be largely operating as normal. Sam spots something out of the corner of his eye. "Look," he says, pointing to a waitress serving a plate of hash browns to a guy in a trucker cap. Dean looks, and it takes him a second to realize that it's the dead waitress—or the supposedly-dead one, in any case. It kind of makes Dean wonder if the whole thing wasn't some fucked up dream that he and Sam just happened to share.

A quick glance to the backseat where Adam would normally be tells him otherwise. The seat is empty.

"He's gone, isn't he?" Sam says. He doesn't really 'ask' it, because he doesn't really think it's a question.

Dean doesn't answer. The two just sit in silence for a few minutes, until Dean can no longer take it. He sighs and cranks the car, throwing it into reverse and… nearly has a heart attack when he hears the 'WHOA' that comes from the roof. The surprise causes him to slam on the brakes, which he quickly realizes is the worst possible thing he could do in that situation as the body on the roof slides right over the rear window and off the car, landing with a plop.

Dean turns off the car, and Sam is already out and running over to Adam—Michael, damn it—who has already picked himself up and started dusting himself off. "Are you stupid!?" Sam shouts, relieved enough to be angry. "What the Hell were you doing on top of the car?"

"I thought you guys would get out!" the angel explains, sounding an awful lot like Dean's other little brother. "I was gonna… I don't know… surprise you or something."

"Well," Dean says, leaning on the trunk, "color me surprised."

"You could've been hurt!" Sam continues, and Dean can't help but give Sam a nonverbal 'you idiot.'

"Uhhh, yeah… not so much." The angel raises a hand; in response, the Impala's trunk pops open and a pistol flies out, landing in his opened palm. Sam's eyes become cartoonishly huge as the angel proceeds to shoot himself in the foot. Other than a hole in his sneakers (which were damn nice; Dean helped him pick those out), there is pretty much zero effect. He even shakes his leg a little, just to demonstrate.

"Oh…" Sam exhales.

"Yeah," the angel replies.

"So you're…" Sam trails off.

"Uh-huh," the angel finishes, looking down and kicking the dirt like a freakin' bashful eight-year-old.

"So," Dean picks up the conversation, because this angel… for God's sake. He's acting so much like Adam it hurts, and Dean needs to know if his little brother is in there or if Michael is an even bigger dick than he thought. "You stopped by Wings and Things and picked yourself up a shiny new pair of the Angel Special."

The angel nods, still looking at the ground.

Dean cuts right to the point. "No offense, but I gotta know… who are you,really?"

Adam/Michael just shakes his head. "Castiel wasn't wrong…" He finally pulls his eyes up from the ground and crosses his arms like he's hugging himself. "My memories are still kind of fuzzy… just little bits and pieces, but I think I know what happened." He nods to the middle Winchester. "Sam doesn't remember, because Lucifer crammed him into a broom closet as soon as we fell into the pit, but we fought. Hell, 'fought' almost seems like too weak a word. We destroyed each other, over and over and over again. We never got tired, we never faltered, we never stopped. I barely remember it and it's still some of the worst stuff I've ever seen. Lucifer was a spiteful bastard. When he realized he couldn't win, he just went crazy. Decided if he was going down, he was taking me… us with him." His mouth curls into a bitter, rueful smile. "You know, even while I'm standing here talking about him like he's, well, the Devil… I don't hate Lucifer. It's like I can't." He swallows thickly. "Anyway, he got what he wanted, too; when it was all over, Lucifer was destroyed, Sam was pretty much intact, but me… I… us… god this is confusing… we were torn apart, right down to our souls."

Adam's eyes go heavenward at this point. "Souls are… weird. They're a lot like DNA, I guess, and everybody's got their own right from the start. But they're not static… they change. Everything that happens to you in life has some kind of impact, so they carry a lot of information. They can get damaged, and they usually repair themselves by drawing on excess little bits and pieces of other souls." He smiles, and gives a little side glance to both of his brothers. "That's why it's important to have people who love you around to patch you up." His eyes go distant again. "But this… this wasn't just your average, everyday flesh wound. We were freakin' shredded. There was barely enough of us left to hold together, and if souls can't hold together, they fall apart, and then they're just… gone. Forever. So the only thing that they, we, me, could do… was this." He shrugs, and his face falls again, like he is ashamed. "Cas wasn't wrong, but he wasn't completely right, either. I'm Adam, and I'm Michael, but in a lot of ways, I'm neither of them. I'm… something else. Like a blanket made from old clothes, or…" At this, he looks fondly past Sam and Dean, to the Impala. "…a car made entirely from spare parts. And me… my soul, has been shaped by you guys in a way that neither of the other me's had ever been." He pauses for a second. "Wow that sounded so girly. And weird."

"Weird is normal for us," Sam smiles. "Normal, now that would be weird."

Dean can't help but smile. "So, you're like… a patched up Adam and Michael." He pauses for a second. "Heh. Patch Adams."

Adam furrows his eyebrows a bit. "I don't know what that is."

Dean huffs out a laugh. This kid… "You sure you didn't get a few pieces of Cas sewn in there, too?"

Sam is still smiling like Christmas has come early. Or, you know, at all. "So, it's good news. You're still you."

Adam, on the other hand, looks like he just got out of trouble for crashing the Impala and is expecting the other foot to fall any second. "You guys aren't mad? I mean… I'm not exactly… who you thought."

Sam shrugs. "Sure you are. We've spent a year on the road together, we know who you are. You might not have Adam's memories, but no matter how you slice it, he's still inside you."

Dean nods in agreement, but he can't just leave it there. "'Course, Michael's in there, too." He smirks. "Little bit of Michael, little bit of Adam… you're like their magical gay love-child."

Adam practically turns green. "Oh… gross."

Sam bitchfaces like the bitch he is. "Thanks, Dean. Thanks for that."

Dean just shrugs. "Hey, it's my job to bust up these little-girl-moments you guys seem to keep starting. You depend on me, and I take my work seriously." He looks Adam straight in the eye. "Look, kid… bottom line; you're our brother, period. And nobody is gonna convince me otherwise." Of course, Dean then realizes he is having a moment, and breaks eye contact. "And anyway… so what if there's a little Michael in there, too? I'm sure he wasn't always a douche."

Adam mock-smiles at Dean. "Gee, thanks. My Michael half is honored. He wants to shake your hand."

Adam offers a palm, but no way is Dean falling for that. "Ha, yeah right. You wanna do a little surprise judo on me, you're gonna have to try harder than that."

Sam goes from happy to wary in an instant, apparently picking up the same vibe Dean is trying so hard to ignore. "So, at the end of the day, you're you, we're alive, everybody's okay. Why does it feel like there's a 'but' coming?"

Adam swallows thickly. Sam always sees this stuff coming. "I'm not… the same. You know that. I can't be the same. I'm hulked out. Angel'd up. There's no going back."

Dean looks over to the diner; at the once-dead waitress who is flirting with an older man he's sure she would never seriously consider doing anything with. But the old guy is flirting back, seeming to get a kick out of the situation, and he can't help but smile. His brother did that. His brother is the reason that can happen at all. "You could do what those other angels did. Bleed yourself Graceless, de-hulk." It sounds like a weak attempt, even for him, but he has to say something.

"No, Dean," Adam says, sounding remarkably like Sam. "I mean, up here," he says, tapping his noggin. "There's no going back. I've just… I feel like I've got a job to do now."

"What kind of job?" Sam asks. "You mean like destroying evil? Saving people? Hunting things? You've been doing that job pretty well for a while now."

Adam shakes his head, looking to the sky again like it's calling his name. "It's not that. My, uhh… my other family is kind of in a tough spot right now. I mean, when you think about it, the angels are pretty much my half-brothers and sisters, too." He tilts his head a bit, and it must be an angel thing, because it's got Cas written all over it. "I should probably stop killing them, if I can help it."

"Yeah, that tends to make the family reunions a little awkward," Dean gives a pretend wince.

"To be fair, you didn't kill anyone who didn't try to kill you first," Sam reasons.

"Still," Adam sighs. "I need to help. I need to."

"Then go help," Sam says as gently possible.

"But I don't want to!" Adam shouts, looking (and being, quite literally) torn between two different worlds.

"Then don't," Sam offers.

Adam looks hurt. "What? You don't care?"

"Kid, we'll back you up no matter what you decide to do," Dean clarifies, because he knows this can't be easy.

"But you've gotta be the one who decides to do it," Sam finishes his thought. "We can't choose for you."

Adam nods, and his face is so wrecked that Dean kind of wants to pick for him. But he knows he can't. That's not what this is about. There is a long silence, and he knows by Sam's face that Sam sees the war going on behind Adam's eyes just as well as he does. This is what it's like, he thinks at Sam like he's still psychic. This is being a big brother. This is letting go.

"I'm going," Adam finally says, and his voice is resolute. "I have to. If you guys knew something bad was about to go down and you had the power to stop it, there's no way you could sit around and let it happen. If I stay, it'd be like you two relaxing on the beach when you know there's a demon in town whose about to have, like, a dozen virgins for breakfast or something. You couldn't do that."

Sam grins with zero mirth and averts his eyes. "You'd be surprised…" He doesn't reminisce for long, though. Dean can see that Sam knows this isn't about him, either. "…but if that's what you've decided, we're with you all the way."

Adam sighs. "You can't come with me. You're not angels."

"Figuratively," Sam adds with a smile, "we're with you. Sorry, I keep forgetting you're still a little literal," and Dean is so proud of his (first) little brother that he kind of feels like hugging him, right then and there. He doesn't, of course, but still. The sentiment's there.

"I'll come visit," Adam offers.

"They'll let you do that?" Sam asks.

Adam snorts. "I'd like to see them try and stop me," he says as he sticks his chin out defiantly, and Dean is so proud of his (second) little brother that he is briefly overwhelmed with an image of himself being so full of pride that he actually explodes, full-on Castiel style. It wouldn't be a bad way to go.

"Alright," Sam says. "We'll hold you to it."

"Damn straight we will," Dean continues. "If we see you before you see us; I promise you, we will make your afterlife a living Hell. I mean, traditional brotherly rough-housing might not work on you, but we got all kinds of tricks up our sleeves," he smiles, punctuating it with an eyebrow wiggle.

"Itching powder on your halo," Sam elaborates. "Honey all over your wings."

"You ever try to clean honey out of your hair? It sucks, dude," Dean says, momentarily reliving the nightmare. To this day, he double-checks his shampoo bottles for actual shampoo. "Feathers would probably be even worse."

"I will kick your asses across, like, ages of heavens," Adam counters, finally smiling again. "I will seriously knock you into the stone-age."

"If you can catch us," Sam grins.

"Dude, I can fly," Adam says, pointing to the space behind him, which probably means he doesn't know his brothers can't actually see his wings.

"You're all gunked up, remember?" Sam gives his best smug grin. "They're not exactly flight-worthy. Hard to rain death from above with honey-barbecue wings."

"Yeah, well, I can always do… this." Adam's voice (along with the rest of him) is suddenly right next to Sam's ear, and the middle Winchester, who faces demons, ghosts, witches, angels, and all manner of nightmares for a living, jumps like someone just zapped him in the ass with a cattle prod.

Dean loses it at Sam's face, while his brother lamely attempts to salvage his dignity. "Showoff…" he mutters.

The conversation trails off again as Dean finishes laughing, and now each of them feels the end coming.

Dean offers his little brother a final benediction. "You are gonna turn that place upside-down. A Winchester in charge of Heaven?" He whistles. "Gonna be a lot of unhappy angels."

"You'll kick ass. You always do," Sam says with a rakish grin, before turning sober. He puts a hand on Adam's shoulder and draws him into a hug, which Adam returns with zero hesitation. "We'll miss you, man. I never had a little brother before. I guess luck was on my side when we picked you up."

"Seriously," Dean smirks. "Sam's the lucky one. He got you. All I got was him." That earns him a smack to the back of the head. Then the kid wraps his arms around Dean and he can't freakin' help it—his voice goes all high and scratchy like it always does when he's trying not to bawl like a three-year-old with a boo-boo. "Take care of yourself, kid." He grins, patting him on the back. "Like you need me to tell you."

"I will," Adam says as he breaks off, not quite able to look them in the eyes. "Besides, this is just temporary. I'll be back. I promise." He takes a deep breath. "Sam… Dean… I uhhh…" He laughs. "…you're awesome." He gives a halfhearted wave. "See you later."

"Bye, Adam," Sam says with a nod.

"Catch you later," Dean adds a wink.

And there is nothing more to be done. Adam jams his hands in the pockets of his jacket—one of Sam's old ones, standard issue for a Winchester—as he turns and walks away. Dean watches him go, walking in a slow, but purposeful stride. He and Sam both keep their eyes on him until he passes under a streetlight, and with the unmistakable sound of fluttering wings, vanishes into the night. Their eyes rest for a while on the spot where he left, until a thought occurs to Dean.

"Hey, Sam," he says, turning to his brother.

"Yeah?" Sam replies, turning to Dean, and if his voice is a little thick, and there are a few tear marks on his face, Dean ignores them for the moment. There'll be plenty of time to tease Sam about being a girl later. Plus, he might have one or two of his own.

"Did we just raise a kid together?" he asks.

Sam scrunches his face up in thought, before a snotty, wet laugh escapes his lips. "Yeah… yeah, I think we kind of did."

Dean just smiles and shakes his head. "Dude, man… our lives… what the crap, man. Just… what the crap."

Sam gives a full-on laugh, and Dean has once again fulfilled his brotherly duties. They linger only a moment longer before finding their familiar places in the only place they call home. Dean cranks her up, and they pull out onto the highway.

The tank is full, and the road ahead is long.

There is no fog left to cloud his mind—there is only an endless blue sky, with golden symbols of light forming an impossibly intricate web of connections across the vast expanse, the strands giving off a gentle hum at varying pitches, waiting for a hand to pluck them and play the music of the spheres. He can hear Heaven all around him, a sublime chord that resonates in the deepest part of his soul, harmonizing and singing counterpoint, and he is no longer afraid. The conductor is gone, and dissonance has reigned for far too long. It is time for someone to restore harmony—and to remind everyone what this song is about.

He walks down the road. All around him are trees and wilderness, with a single two-lane blacktop cutting a path through the middle, disappearing into the sun. He can't tell if it is the rising or setting sun, but he thinks either would be appropriate as he stares into the light without even squinting. It doesn't hurt at all; in fact, he craves it, wants to see more of it.

He feels them start to appear, one-by-one, gathering to stand by the side of the road and watch him as he goes. He can feel their confusion, their sadness, their anger, their hope, and it makes him realize that they are just as lost as anyone, as any human, even if they are much less willing to admit it. They don't know what to make of him. Their eyes never leave him as he walks, but all of them stay at the roadside, unwilling to step into his path. All but one, that is.

He feels Castiel appearing in-step beside him, and he cannot believe he ever disliked the angel. He feels nothing but faith and love within Castiel—love for Dean, for Sam, for himself, for all of humankind. Castiel is his brother and his ally, and he knows that the two of them can do this. They can right these wrongs.

"Adam," Castiel says, never breaking stride. "I do not know what to say. I had hoped things would not end as they did."

"Don't worry about it," Adam says. "I mean, nothing ever really ends, does it?"

Castiel gives a genuine grin. "Very well," he says. "For what it is worth, I am glad you are here. Welcome home, Adam."

Adam gives a sad smile and a shake of his head. "It's not home," he says. "Not yet, anyway."

The two of them stop at last, turning to survey the crowd of angels that has gathered to look at them. Things will not be easy, but he has faith. He looks to Castiel with sober eyes.

"We've got work to do."

"I feel the light upon my face, I hear the angel's words of grace. My broken wings have learned to fly; lift me up and testify. I'm standing up, I'm standing out; I feel the walls come crashing down." – In the Light, Full Blown Rose

A/N: Just so you know, this story began its life as a dark, psychological tale where an insane Adam escaped from Hell and started tracking down former vessels and murdering them, eventually having to be euthanized by Sam and Dean. Goes to show you how much a story can change as it's written. XD

The Enochian here is 'real' Enochian, or so the internet tells me.
MAD GAH-L OLANI PON = Your spirit, I destroy.
OIAD LOAGAETH OI IZIZOP = Go from this vessel.
MALPRG IO-IAD = Burn forever.