Title: Out of Ashes [1/?]
Author: morkhan
Warnings: Slight cursing. Barfing.
Characters: Sam, Adam, Dean, Minor OFC, background Lisa and Ben.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 6307
Summary: Adam accidentally gets his wings clipped. Sam helps him put his feathers back in order. Unfortunately, that's just the beginning of their problems… Sequel to 'Lift Me Up.' Spoilers for the whole series.
Disclaimer: I make no money from this, nor should I—it is simply a tribute to the fine actors and writers who portray these characters that have captured my imagination and rather kinkily tied it to a chair. ;)

Author's Notes: Hello again! I must apologize for my absence—I was getting ready to post another story in the 'Bump' series, but I got home one day to find that my computer would not turn on. Long story short, the motherboard was fried beyond repair and a new computer had to be secured. I was more than a little disheartened that all my hard work was destroyed, but I managed to recover a bit of inspiration and came up with this story instead. It's my first multi-chapter fic (at least, my first that was intended to be a multi-chapter from the start) and—more importantly—my first WIP. I have the whole thing mapped out in my head, I just need to finish that mapping on paper… computer… whatever. :P

Anyway, this is the sequel to Lift Me Up, taking place about nine months after the end of that story. This story won't make sense if you don't read that one. All reviews are appreciated. Enjoy!

"So, Ms…"

"Tammy. Tammy Crews," the woman replies, flashing him what she probably thinks is an eyelash flutter but actually looks a little more like she's trying to blink a gnat out of her eye. She is a short, somewhat frumpy woman, and the brown skirt she's wearing isn't doing much to help her out, but she's actually got a nice face. Not bad looking overall; Sam would probably take her up on her obvious offer after only a beer or two. Maybe even sober, if it had been a while.

"Ms. Crews," he continues, smiling just enough to let her think he is a possibility. "Start at the beginning. When did you first notice something was… off?"

"Well," she said, bringing her finger up to her lips. "About three days ago when I got to work, the second I sat down I thought something was kind of funny. My chair wouldn't roll 'cause the floor was all lumpy and uneven. At first I just thought the place had finally gone rotten—this courthouse is like a hundred years old—but then…"

"…then the roots started coming in," Sam finished for her.

"Yep," she nods. "Roots were sticking up out of the floor the next day when I got here, and the walls were sprouting leaves." Sam looks past her to the mass of vines creeping up the wall, the uneven patterns and strange shape of the vines spider-webbing in and out of the wallpaper like veins, making the old building seem like an enormous living creature. The vines look like vessels—blood vessels, that is—and Sam wants to snort at the irony.

"And all of this happened within the past three days?" Sam asks, playing the part of the investigator with ease. It is, technically, what he does, so it's not too much of a stretch.

"Yep," she nods again. "It's so weird. I mean, how does a plant like this even grow from underneath a courthouse? Don't they need sunlight or something? I mean, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention in biology, but I think I remember that much."

"Well, Ms. Crews, that's what I'm trying to figure out." The courthouse is cleared of other occupants due to the fact that all this plant-based weirdness has the unfortunate side effect of making the old building even less structurally sound than it was to begin with (by Sam's estimation, the thing has probably only dodged being condemned by the skin of its teeth). "Now, all this started three days ago. Four nights ago, there were reports of an unidentified object in the sky over downtown Tacoma, with at least three people that saying it made impact near the courthouse. Do you know anything about that?"

Ms. Crews rolls her eyes. "Oh, for the love of... You're one of those stupid tabloid reporters, aren't you? You think this is some kind of alien shit like the rest of the crazies in town. Shit, I should've known better than to talk to someone as shady-looking as you…"

Shady-looking? Sam feels a bit offended at that. Maybe playing host to the devil has robbed him a bit of his former innocent charm, but he would hardly describe himself as shady. Whatever. The lady is leaving and he isn't done with her yet. He needs to find an unshady way of keeping her here. "No, Ms. Crews, I don't think anything yet. I want as many facts as I can get before I start drawing a conclusion. No sense in putting the cart before the horse, right?" He fires a disarming grin at her and she returns his volley with a smile of her own, adding a little spin with a hint of lust. Point: Winchester.

"Well, I guess I can't argue with that logic," she admits.

Sam is about to press a little further when he spots movement out of the corner of his eye. A vagrant has entered the courthouse lobby and is approaching the mass of vines with a strange sense of purpose. It isn't until the filthy looking man is right on top of them that the man's identity becomes clear, and the realization is so sudden that he can't stop it from springing out of his mouth like a jack-in-the-Sam. "Adam?"

The 'hobo' grinds to a halt and pivots to look at Sam with incredible speed. He is wearing tattered, torn clothes, covered in dirt and grime, and looking like he lost a fight with a small army of possessed tractors, but there is no mistaking his face, and there is definitely no escaping the sudden sunrise of joy on that face upon seeing him. "Sam!" he shouts, and sprints towards him, launching into an unrestrained tackle-hug that nearly knocks the 6'5 Winchester on his ass. Adam seems to be making a genuine, if unintentional attempt to squeeze the years out of Sam's life, which is not a good thing, but a more pressing matter at the moment, is how unbelievably badly Adam is blasting Sam's cover into unrecognizable pieces of char. Tammy is staring at them both like she can't decide whether to gag or run away while they're distracted.

"Adam!" Sam says, carefully prying his semi-celestial sibling off of him. "Were you able to figure out what's causing this while you were digging in the dirt outside?" he says pointedly, looking directly into Adam's eyes to make sure the point is well-communicated.

It takes him a second, but eventually, Adam nods, falling easily back into routine. "Oh, yeah, yeah. Absolutely." He looks beyond Tammy to the growing truckload of flora. "I can absolutely, 100% guarantee you that I know exactly what is causing this."

Sam glances over at Tammy. They haven't completely lost her yet. Good, now they just need to follow through on the story and they can get out of here without anyone calling the police. "And?" he prods Adam. "Is it what I think it is?"

Adam looks at Sam like he's trying to read his mind. Which he might well be. "…yes. It's… ummm… it's that." Okay, not so much with the mind reading.

Tammy takes this opportunity to butt in. "And what exactly is it?"

Sam is momentarily flabbergasted. His brain scrambles for a half-believable lie. Surprisingly, it is Adam who steps in to save him with a slightly edited truth. "Extremely high levels of unusual, possibly radioactive energy, likely originating from extraterrestrial phenomena in the upper atmosphere."

Tammy rolls her eyes. "I knew it! You think it's aliens."

Sam smiles gently and stops her from turning the ignition on her indignation. "Ma'am, extraterrestrial just means that it didn't originate on earth."

Tammy raises a finger to point at him, but seems to deflate when the point catches up to her. "…oh."

"You probably don't want to be around during clean-up," Adam says gently. "This stuff can be highly dangerous if handled improperly."

"Dangerous how?" she says. "I've been around it for days, and nothing's happened to me!"

"Well, it has been known to cause extremely painful eye problems, up to and including permanent blindness," Adam says gravely. "I just don't want anything to happen to you, miss," he adds, unleashing the full power of his puppy-dog eyes. Even covered in filth, Adam's doe-eyed innocent look defrosts the unsuspecting secretary nigh-instantly. Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta taa, puppy power.

"Well… thank you. I guess," she says, sighing. "This is all a little too weird for me anyway. I knew I should've taken that job at Kinko's…" And she leaves without a look back at either of them.

No law enforcement, cover remains intact. All-in-all, things could've gone much worse. And now that Tammy is out of his hair, he can focus on getting answers to the hundred or so questions that just walked in and gave him a hug. "Nice job keeping my cover, there," he says. Even before he angel'd up, Adam could be Hell to carry on a con because he seemed damn-near incapable of lying. It was a careful process, teaching him how to corroborate his brothers' stories without actually telling any untruths: the art of lying without lying. He knew that pre-law education would come in handy someday…

"Thanks," Adam grins, before turning his attention back to the Miracle Growth.

"That's yours, I assume?" Sam asks.

Adam nods, wincing slightly. "Yeah. I… took a little fall."

"You Fell?" Sam asks, more than a little shocked.

Adam looks at him oddly for a second, before realizing the difference between what he said and what Sam heard. "Oh, no, no. Not, like, capital-F Fell… I just, fell. Or got pushed, anyway."

"Are you okay?" Sam asks. "You look like Hell, man." Now that Sam has a closer look at him, he can see the cuts on Adam's face and the deep, dark shadows under his eyes. His skin looks worn and weather-beaten, and he's thinner than Sam remembers. According to Tammy, the 'comet' was reported three days ago, which means that Adam has been human again for at least that long. The time has not been kind to him.

Adam shakes his head, slipping into an easy grin to reassure his big brother. "Nah. I'm fine." He contemplates the question a bit more. "Little sleepy."

And that's all the warning Sam gets before Adam goes ragdoll-limp and flops to the floor.

"So, you'll never guess who fell into my lap this morning…" Sam begins.

"Dude, for the last time. TMI. I don't wanna hear about what goes on in your lap. Or on it."

Sam snorts. "Alright, just remember: you're the one who made this about sex, not me."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It's Adam."

Silence. "…oh, sick. That's just… good job, Sammy. I'm gonna be scrubbing that one out of my brain for days."

"Yeah, well, that's what you get for turning everything into a dirty joke."

"So, what's the deal? How is he?"

"Well, I told you about the case I've been working in Washington, right?"

"Yeah, kudzu in the courthouse right after some kind of comet. You thought it was another fallen angel."

"And I was right." Sam waits for Dean to make the connection.

"Wait... that was Adam?"

"That's what he told me," Sam says.

"Holy shit. What happened?"

"That's what I'd like to know."

"Well, gee, Sammy, did you try asking him?"

Sam looks over to the table where his little brother sleeps, a cheap loveseat cushion supporting his head. "He's a little out-of-it right now, Dean. But don't worry; he's alive, and as far as I can tell, OK. Just… a little tired."

Sam hears the sound of movement from the other end of the line, followed by the distinctive jingle of car keys. "I'll be over there ASAP. Where you staying?"

Sam sighs. "No, Dean. We've been over this—you can't just drop everything and run off like this. You have to at least warn her first. Those were her terms."

"Sam, my baby brother just got his… angel guts ripped out, and…"

"Dean, your little brothers are handling it. We're big boys. I promise I'll tell you if I really think I need your help, but you've got to stay put, man. You spent so long pining over Lisa; it'd be a shame for her to have to kick you to the curb again so soon after taking you back."

Dean is silent on the other end. Sam hears a deep breath. "You promise?"

"Cross my heart," Sam says.

A sigh. "Fine." Sam hears the keys jingling as Dean tosses them aside.

"How are they?" Sam asks, feeling like kind of a tool for forgetting to ask.

"Well, considering no one ripped out their guts, I'd say they're pretty alright."

Sam smiles somewhat ruefully. The conversation is basically over; the price of winning an argument with Dean is an end to all conversation for at least an hour while he sulks. "Great. I'm gonna see if Adam's ready to talk. I'll call you later."

"You better." Call Ended.

Sam flips his phone shut and pockets it as he turns back to his slumbering sibling. After he face-planted in the lobby, Sam knew there was no way he could drag an unconscious body from the building without drawing lots of unwanted attention. Thus, he was left with little choice but to drag Adam to a side room and find something semi-comfortable to lay him on. The conference table was not the softest bed in the world, but Sam had at least been able to find some cheap cushions from waiting room furniture to act as pillows. At first, he had been every bit as worried as Dean, but upon giving him the once over, Sam couldn't find anything life-threatening, and since all his vitals were good, Sam figured that Adam really was just that tired. Castiel, towards the end of his fall into humanity, seemed constantly exhausted as well, though Sam suspects that was just as much from depression and discouragement as it was from losing his mojo.

"Sam," Adam's voice knocks him off his train of thought.

"Yeah?" Sam replies.

Adam is laying very still, eyes closed. "Uhhh… 's there a trash can in here?"

Sam spots a small wastebasket in the corner of the room. "Yeah." He grins slightly. "I'm gonna take a wild guess and say you need to—"

"Now, please," Adam says urgently, and Sam breaks off his teasing to rush for the little plastic bin. He shoves under Adam just in time to catch most of what comes out of him, which is very watery, from what Sam can tell. "Sorry," Adam grunts when he's done spouting.

"It's okay," Sam says, rubbing soothing circles on Adam's back just like Dean occasionally did for him when he woke up with a hangover. You know, when he wasn't being a tormenting ass instead. "You can pay me back by explaining what happened to you."

Adam winces. "Grace first. Talk later," he grunts.

"Sorry, but no-can-do. Not yet, anyway; it's broad daylight, and there are tons of people around."

Adam's miserable groan would sound childish in any other situation. As it is now, Sam can just give him a sympathetic one-armed hug. It'll be a few hours 'til sundown, at least. They need something to pass the time.

"So, ummm… are you hungry?" he asks… only to find that Adam has already passed out again.

It's gonna be a long afternoon.

Sam briefly entertains the idea of going to steal some drugs for him, but his Grace will likely be the best medicine anyone can offer, and Sam doesn't like the idea of leaving him alone when he's so vulnerable (and that is a situation he never expected to run into again). So instead, he sits in the room with his KO'd brother, and after painting a just-in-case banishing sigil on the back of the door, passes the time by playing Tetris on his cell phone. He is perilously close to beating his old high score when he notices the world is finally dark enough to send most people to their houses.

"Adam," he says, jostling him gently. "Wake up, buddy. Time to strap your wings back on."

Adam moans and sits up slowly. "Name's not 'Buddy,'" he slurs, before hopping down off the table and starting towards the door.

"Wait," Sam says. "Promise you're not gonna fly off when you're done? I mean it. I want to know what happened to you. You can't let me see you like this and expect me not to worry."

Adam shakes his head. "Sam, I'm fine. And to be fair, I… didn't really think I'd run into you," he finishes sheepishly.

"Don't care. Promise you'll tell me what happened, or I'm not letting you out." Sam crosses his arms and moves to stand between Adam and the door.

Adam glares at Sam. "Oh, come on. Like you can actually stop me."

Sam just smiles wider, teeth on display in a surprisingly shark-like smirk. "Actually, I'm pretty sure I can, considering you've got the strength of ten kittens right about now."

Adam looks insulted at that. "Oh, it's on now…" He blinks, eyes going vacant, and Sam swears for a second he forgets why he is there. "Now… now you're gonna… get it. 'Cause… 'cause I'm gonna give it to you. An asskicking, that is." He plasters on a weary imitation of his game face, and moves towards Sam.

To take pity on the poor kid, let's just say that what follows is mildly embarrassing and ends with Adam in a headlock that he has zero hope of breaking. "Say Uncle!" Sam demands.

Adam stops struggling for a second. "…why?"

Sam has to think about that. "I… don't know, actually. Because I'll let you go if you do? I mean, I guess it's supposed to be a humiliating form of surrender, but I don't know why that particular word—"

Adam shrewdly takes advantage of Sam's moment of distraction, and he almost gets away, but in the end, the headlock just transforms into a chokehold, and Adam is worse off than he started. "Say it!" Sam says as he squeezes (just a little) tighter.

"Ow, ow! Okay, fine, Uncle!" Sam's grip slackens and Adam stumbles forward, rubbing his neck and looking thoroughly sulky.

Sam holds his hands up in surrender. "Dude, please. Come on. I just wanna know what's going on."

"Okay," Adam sighs, not quite looking at Sam. "I'm sorry. I promise we can have a… pow-wow, heart-to-heart, whatever, soon as I get back in shape."

"Great." Sam hands Adam a receipt. "That's where I'm staying. Don't… uhhh… don't flare up for a few minutes. I'm gonna try and set up a little distraction for you."

"Okay," Adam says, staring at the receipt with eyes that say he'd like nothing more than to pass out again. He tilts his head slightly to read better and winces a bit, and Sam realizes he might have underestimated just how fragile his little brother really is.

He ruffles his hair as he walks past (and resolves to wash that hand as soon as possible, because seriously, Adam is gross right now)."See you soon," Sam says. He hates to leave the kid, but having extracted the promise from him, Sam feels better about seeing him again. Angels can't break promises… right?

A few minutes later, a dozen or so heads still lingering in the vicinity of the Tacoma City Courthouse snap in near-perfect unison to look towards a small back alley, due to what sounds like several gunshots and a small explosion suddenly erupting from within. Only the backs of heads will catch any kind of light flaring up from within the courthouse, and by the time anyone turns to look, the whole thing will be over. Further investigation of the sounds in the alleyway yields nothing out of the ordinary, and in the end, no one is entirely certain that either event took place at all.

Just as it should be.

To be honest, he definitely should've expected something like this. After waiting for about half an hour for Adam to show up, Sam decides he might as well take a shower. He heads into the bathroom, pulls back the curtain and—

"Hey, Sam."

—flips the fuck out when he finds Adam standing there waiting for him. He jolts backwards awkwardly, does the backstroke-windmill for a second, and falls right on his ass. "Dude! What the Hell?"

Adam stands with his arms crossed, lips closed in a smug grin. Angel Mojo apparently comes with a free deluxe wash, wax, and dry because both his clothes and his skin are as clean and pristine as if they were new. "Oh, come on. You know you had that coming. Picking on your poor, sick, defenseless little brother..."

Sam rolls his eyes. "Defenseless my ass. You started that fight, and you know it. I just finished it."

Adam steps out of the shower and offers Sam a hand. "Ready for round 2?"

Sam takes it and pulls himself up. "Do I really look that stupid?"

"Yes," Adam says almost instantly.

"Smug little twerp," Sam says. The two have a brief staring contest, before Sam breaks into a grin and finally has the presence of mind to return his little brother's greeting from earlier. "It's good to see you, buddy," Sam says, pulling Adam into a hug.

"I'm not your 'buddy,'" Adam replies, half-heartedly shoving him off and grinning the entire time.

Sam boots Adam from the bathroom, having already made shower preparations and intending to follow through with them. When he's done, he finds his heavenly hombre reclining on the bed, wholly engrossed in an episode of The Next Food Network Star. "Man… that looks amazing," he says, turning to Sam. "I didn't realize how much I missed it. Do you know how long it's been since I actually ate?"

Sam eyes him carefully as he goes to the other bed, sitting on the edge facing Adam. "Didn't you eat while you were human?"

Adam gives him a rueful grin. "I… kind of… forgot."

Sam's expression is flat. There is no way to communicate how stupid he finds that. "You forgot. To eat."

The little angel tries for an innocent grin. "I was… kind of preoccupied."

"You were human for at least three days. You're telling me you didn't eat anything that entire time?"

Adam makes a series of faces, starting from funny, going to sheepish, trying for boyish, and finally settling on embarrassed. "…yeah, pretty much."

"Adam!" Sam shouts, hating the mom-tone (Adam's words, not his) that effuses his voice but being unable to stop it. Sam had kind of thought that Adam becoming an immortal divine emissary would mean that he no longer needed to worry about his well-being.

"I'm sorry!" Adam says, completely genuine. "I just… forgot. I was still thinking in angel mode, I guess. I had to finish the job. The mission comes first."

Sam grits his teeth. They've had this conversation before. "Adam, it's hard to finish the mission if you're dead."

Adam deflates. Sam can almost see his invisible wings folding in around him to shield him from Sam's fury. "Yeah, I know."

Suppressing the urge to further berate his brother, Sam forces himself to move the conversation forward. "Look, it's okay. Just… tell me what happened. Start from the beginning."

Adam smirks for a second, before sitting up straight, squaring his shoulders, holding his head up high and giving his best impression of Don LaFontaine. "Well, In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word…"

A hand automatically finds its way to the bridge of Sam's nose and begins massaging away the pain of being considerably more mature than a Divine Emissary. "Cute. You're just… adorable. Seriously, Adam."

"Fine," he sighs. "Cas has me doing grunt work."

"Really?" Sam asks, incredulous. He figured Castiel would happily put Adam right beside him in the Angelic Chain of Command, or in second place, at least.

Adam quickly moves to correct Sam's misapprehension. "Oh, no, it's not like that. I asked him to give me simple stuff to start with. I mean, yeah, I'm technically the former heavyweight champ, but that doesn't mean too much if I don't even remember how I got there. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was just as obedient and capable as they were. I wanted to earn their respect, as an angel and a soldier, not as Michael, and not as a Winchester. So I was mostly on demon duty and clean-up patrol. It was… it was a lot like hunting with you guys, actually. I just had a heavenly CO who gave me assignments."

There's an easy smile on Adam's face as he speaks, and that by itself thrills him to no end. His brother is happy. Or was, anyway;the story's not done yet. "Okay, so how does simple stuff and grunt work lead to you getting re-humanized?"

Adam opens his mouth to speak, but the words lose their nerve just as they're about to dive off his tongue, and he turns to look out the window and stare at the dark sky for a minute instead. Not much to see tonight, if you're asking Sam, but who knows what Adam sees. The revelation comes suddenly. "It was Raphael."

Whoa. Sam goes bug-eyed. "Raphael the Archangel?"

Adam nods. "That's the one."

Sam is incredulous. "Cas has you going up against archangels!" He is going to throttle that angel. He doesn't care if it'll probably hurt his fingers more than Castiel's neck. It's the principle of the thing.

Adam winces a bit. "Well, I wasn't really supposed to fight him. My job was basically to find him and try to convince him to come back to Heaven. Long story short, he wasn't really in a talking mood. I guess being trapped in a fire circle for a few years kind of leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. He was being such a dick… and I was actually being nice!"

Something about Adam's tone sets off Sam's lie detector. "…oh, really?" he says, studying Adam carefully.

Adam goes wide-eyed as he insists, "I was! I was totally civil. I mean, at first."

Sam keeps his gaze on Adam, his expression unyielding.

Adam finally gives. "Fine, I might have called him 'Thunderballs.' Once or twice. It was just… you know, good-natured ribbing. Guy can't take a joke."

Sam is split evenly. One third of him wants to laugh (Thunderballs? Seriously?), one third wants to slam his palm into his face as hard as he can and knock himself out, and the other third wants to slam the same palm into the back of Adam's head. "You were sent to negotiate with an archangel and you called him Thunderballs." He knows he is doing this a lot, but he feels like he needs to repeat some of this stuff out loud so Adam can hear how ridiculous it sounds coming out of any mouth but his own.

This time, Adam looks a little affronted. "Sam, I was sent to find my brother, to let him out of prison, and ask him to come home again. That was how I saw it. He just… didn't see it the same way. Same old song and dance. I'll never be Michael, I am a stain, an abomination, an affront to his brother's memory, blah, blah, blah. Typical angel melodrama," he shrugs. "Only this time it was punctuated by Raphael kicking my ass across seven states and practically tearing my grace out with his teeth."

A fly could easily make it halfway down Sam's throat before he would notice it, with the way his mouth is hanging open in shock. "Uhh… wow."

Adam scratches the back of his head—a nervous habit from when he was a human, as Sam seriously doubts angels itch. "Yeah. I'm… actually kind of surprised I survived. It was a total curb-stomp, man. I stood, like, zero chance against him. I'm a little stronger than your average angel, but I'm nowhere near that." Sam feels for the kid. He looks vaguely traumatized by the whole incident. "Anyway, I landed in Oregon, my grace landed in Washington. I spent the next three days getting from A to B."

Sam suddenly remembers why he was so annoyed at the start of this conversation. "Without stopping to eat? Even once?"

Adam shrugs. "Didn't have any money."

"I did! I have plenty! You could've called me, or Dean, or Bobby. And don't say you don't have a cell phone. There are public phones all over the place, and tons of people who would've gladly let you use theirs."

The little angel's eyes are suddenly sadder than they have any right to be. "I… didn't want you to get hurt. I mean, the last thing you need is to get in the way of another pissed-off archangel…"

Again, something about Adam's tone and expression prompts Sam to do a little between-the-lines reading. When the answer hits him, it's so obviously Winchester he could spit. "You thought you were already dead, didn't you? You thought Raphael was going to find you and finish you off. That's why you didn't call anyone."

Adam breaks all pretense of looking at Sam and roots his eyes to the floor. It's all the affirmation Sam needs.

"The reason you didn't eat… it wasn't because you forgot. It had nothing to do with the mission; you were running for your life. Non-stop. For three days straight." Sam mind-warps back to the moment Adam walked into the lobby and Saw him. The dirt that covered him from head to toe, the tattered clothes, the hollowed-out look and thin frame… all of these fit perfectly with Sam's image of a man on the run. When Adam saw him, the joy on his face was nothing less than the joy of someone who was unexpectedly granted a reprieve from execution. Adam looked at Sam like he had honestly never expected to see him again. Even when Adam collapsed like a sack of potatoes, there was a kind of relief on his face, almost like he had been waiting for someone to give him permission to stop and rest. And on top of everything else… "And you were on-foot the whole way, weren't you?"

Adam nods, still not looking up.

Sam huffs out a breath. "God, Adam…" In a second, he has crossed the gap between the beds and pulled his baby brother into another hug. "I had no idea. I was kind of hoping things would stop trying to kill you after you got your wings."

He feels Adam laugh into his shoulder. "No such luck."

"For any of us," Sam agrees.

Adam holds out for a few more seconds before he finally forces himself free of his enormous, overly affectionate big sister. "I'm okay, Sam. Really. All better now."

"Really?" Sam asks, giving him a frank stare.

"Really," Adam reassures him.

Sam smiles. "Good." WHUMP. His hand slams into the back of Adam's head and… yup, that hurts like a bitch. Stupid steel angel skin... still. Principle.

"Ow!" Adam says, more out of reflex and surprise than any pain. "Were you always this bipolar? What is wrong with you?"

"That's for not asking for help. I don't care what's after you. Demons, zombies, vampires, archangels, God Himself; if you are in trouble, if you need help, you call me. You call someone. You could have died; dropped dead from exhaustion up here in the middle of nowhere. And angels can't revive other angels, so when you're gone… you're gone." He sighs, his mind already playing out scenarios and images in his head that he does not want to see, hear, or contemplate. "It would kill me to know you went out like that. I am dead serious."

Adam shakes his head. "Sam, I'm just… trying to keep you guys safe. I don't want you to get on anyone's bad side because of me."

Sam can't help but laugh at this. He spreads his arms. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm already on the bad side of pretty much every cosmic force you can name. I'm not going to sweat another archangel on my tail, not if it's after my family." Sam reaches over to the side table and picks up his cell, handing it to Adam. "Here, take this. I've got plenty of spares. Keep it charged, and use it while you're here. Okay?"

"Okay," Adam nods.

"Promise," Sam commands.

"What is it with you and promises?"

"They make me feel better. And they give me more of an excuse to be pissed off if you break them."

"Fine. I promise. Can I go now?"

Sam raises his eyebrows. "Oh, wow. I didn't realize I was such shitty company."

"It's not that," Adam says, shaking his head. "I just… I need to let the Angel Network know I'm okay and see what Cas wants me to do now. For all I know, Raphael is still out there looking for me. I know you're a badass, and all, but seriously—I don't want him to find you. Period. He's got a major bone to pick with you and Dean."

"I understand," Sam reassures him. "And… I'm sorry I went off on you like that."

The angel shrugs him off. "Don't worry about it. You wouldn't be Sammy if you weren't a gigantic Mother Hen, trying to sit on me like I'm still in the egg."

Sam snorts. "Of course. You're right: you hatched, and you're a Big Chicken now." He reclines on the bed, picking up the remote and using it to point Adam towards the door. "Fly away, Chicken Boy. I'll talk to you later."

Adam grins, and is gone.

The next morning, there is a carton of eggs sitting in his driver's seat. Sam comes this close to actually sitting on them before he notices.

Oh, funny. Laugh riot. Adam better be glad he didn't ruin Sam's FBI pants or Sam would definitely… do…


"FBI Special Agent Ulrich. This better be important."

"Dean, it's me."

"Sam? Why're you calling me on the FBI line?"

"Gave my cell to Adam. You might want to update your numbers."

"Okay, so… what's the story?"

"Well, the short version is: Adam had a little run-in with the Archangel Raphael, and it didn't go particularly well for him."

"Raphael? Son of a bitch… me and Cas should've ganked that guy when we had the chance. Total, hundred percent, USDA choice, grade F'in asshole."

"No arguments there, but Adam's okay now. He nearly killed himself trying to get his Grace back, but hopefully he knows he can call and ask for help next time. Actually, scratch that, hopefully there won't be a next time."

"Why didn't he call?"

"Thought he was protecting us from Raphael."

"Huh. Well, gee, the kid thinks his brother is better off without him and goes off on his own to protect him, even though his brother would be happy to help him out. Kind of reminds me of someone."

"Yeah, he thinks his own life is worth less than his brother's, and doesn't want to burden anyone with his problems or feelings, instead just keeping everything to himself until it nearly kills him. It's definitely ringing a few bells."

"Oh, nice. I see what you did there."

"So, I'll ask again: how are Lisa and Ben?"

"They're great." Sam hears the clatter of dishes in the background, and what sounds like sizzling. "Ow, shit that's hot!"

"Are you cooking?"

"Trying to. Son of a bitch…"

"Sounds like things are going swimmingly."

"Try drowningly."

"Oh well. It's the thought that counts, right?"

"Yeah, Lisa can't really eat my thoughts, Sam. If she could… well, I'd probably have to shoot her."

Sam hears another voice in the background. "Why are you talking about shooting my mom?"

Dean replies. "Don't worry, kid. It's only if she turns into some kind of thought-eating brain monster."

The voice seems appeased by this. "Ah, gotcha."

Dean finally returns to Sam's side of the conversation. "Gotta go, Sammy. You're ruining my concentration."

"You told me to call you!"

"And you did. Good boy. Who's a good boy? Who's a good boy! Sammy! Sammy's a good boy!" Sam snorts. "Give yourself a treat for good behavior."

"Go to Hell, Dean. Again."

"Only if you come with me, sunshine."



Call Ended.

It's not until a couple of weeks later that Sam gets a call from his old cell phone. He's coming off the tail end of a hunt for a Rusalka that lived so deep in the ass-end of nowhere that Sam couldn't find any hotels close enough to use as a base and wound up setting up camp in a run-down shack that probably belonged to the Rusalka's third or fourth victim. Slightly distasteful, sure, but there's no one else using it, so why let a perfectly good shelter go to waste?

The phone rings twice before he picks it up. "Hello?"

"Sam, hey. It's Adam."

"I know, dude. Caller ID."

"Oh, right." Sam tries to study his voice. He definitely sounds a little off, but Sam can't quite put his finger on why. "Listen, ummm… could you… man this is so weird… could you come pick me up?"

Huh. That's not what Sam expected. "You didn't get humanized again, did you?"

"No, no, not exactly."

"So why don't you zap over here? I'm way off the beaten path right now—it'll probably take me an hour just to find a road." Plus the Rusalka was kind of a bitch to put down. Swimming always did tire him out…

"Well, I just… I kind of… I'm not…" A sigh. "Okay. I'll try." Call Ended.

Try? Sam doesn't like the sound of that. And he likes the sudden, violent THUD of an impact on the shack's roof even worse. Out the window, he sees a shadow plummet past the glass, and Sam immediately exits the house with his gun drawn, ready to attack.

What he isn't ready-for is a rather tired-looking Adam to be pulling himself up off the ground. "I'm okay," Adam says, pre-empting Sam's first question. "Rough landing."

Sam lowers his gun. "That was you? What happened?"

Adam shrugs. "I tried. And… I missed."

"You missed," Sam says plainly. "Angels don't miss. You never 'missed' before.

Adam looks more than a little miserable. "Apparently, I do now."

And when Sam hears his little brother's voice laced with so much uncertainty and weariness, there is no contest.

It is, by far, his least favorite sound of all.

To Be Continued…