Title: Worth a Thousand Words
Characters: Sam, Adam, Dean, Minor OMC.
Word Count: 3082
Summary: Snapshots of an atypical family. They don't look like much, but every picture tells a story… set during 'Lift Me Up.' Won't make sense without reading that first.
Disclaimer: Owner of nothing, user of everything. I just rearrange the pieces—all money and credit go to the craftsmen who created them, aka Eric Kripke and the CW.
Author's Notes: A little fic that I needed to write after watching 6.01 and writing Static Cling. Angst is, of course, a large part of the SPN experience, but sometimes, you just want niceness and fluffyness and brotherhood to remind you why you wade through the angst to begin with. :P So here is another Angelic!Adam story. With all the darkness and distrust going around, I felt the need to revisit the one 'verse I have where the relationship between the brothers is unambiguously good and positive. :3
Each chapter in this will be a different snapshot from the year Michael!Adam spent with Sam and Dean before getting re-angel'd; each is a miniature story unto itself. Updates to this will likely be more sporadic than my chapter fics, but each snapshot is its own little story, so that shouldn't cause too many problems. Consider this a sort of peace offering, as I am, in all likelihood, going to delete Out of Ashes so that I can rewrite it. The plot has changed in my head so much that I now want to take the story in an almost completely different direction. Please don't hurt me.
So yeah. Enjoy, and know that all reviews are loved.
The sight that greets them upon pulling back into the parking lot is just a little less twisted than a Tim Burton nightmare. Ordinarily, it'd seem outright horrifying—the entire hotel collapsed upon itself, enormous streams of smoke flying higher than the eye could follow, firefighters shooting carefully targeted bursts of water at the few remaining open flames. The smog is so thick that the sunlight is having trouble breaking through, its color a pigment-perfect match for any demon's true form. That, plus the sporadic bursts of disgruntled fire creates the overall effect of a tableau of Hell on Earth. You know, except for the fact that everyone on the scene is smiling like a bunch of lobotomized suburbanites confronted with an expensive shiny thing.
The Impala is parked with a carelessness that Dean will literally kick himself for later, and the two of them are out and into the chaos at a new record speed, two sides of a handcar, pumping the see-saw in a rapid rhythm of AdamAdamAdamAdamAdam. They find him, of course, sitting on a gurney in the middle of everything, a discarded oxygen mask hanging off his shoulders, clothes thoroughly blackened, hair sticking up in directions Dean didn't even know existed, face smeared with soot and mostly black, save for the set of perfectly white teeth shining in a grin like he just bought them brand new at half price. No one should look as battle-damaged as he does and have a grin that huge. It's slightly psychotic.
"Adam!" Dean shouts, rushing over to him. "Holy Hell, man… what happened here?"
"Are you okay?" Sam asks, bringing up the rear.
Adam's eyes light up and if he grins any wider, he's going to break his face and half his head will fall off. That'll be a bitch to clean up. "Sam! Dean!" he says, excited. "The hotel burned down. I helped!"
Both of them are at a loss for words. Sam's mouth is hanging open, Dean's is shut tight, both bulging one eye and squinting the other like they're having matching strokes. They've only had Adam for about a month and a half, but so far, he hasn't shown any pyromaniac tendencies that Dean has been around to see. If he's been going around burning things… well, it's probably going to merit a bit more than a stern lecture on fire safety and a week of wood-chopping at Bobby's. "Ummm, Adam, I… you…"
Fortunately, Dean is saved from the awkward moment by a fireman. Dean likes firemen. They fight fires. Fires suck, therefore firemen are fucking awesome. "Hey!" the man says, raising his face shield as he heads towards them. Behind him, his comrades distractedly douse the last of the flames. "Is this one yours?" he asks pointing to Adam, who continues to out-beam the sun.
"Yeah," Sam says quickly. "Yeah, he's ours."
"Huh," the fireman says, giving them all a quick once-over. "Well, I don't really know how it works with… you know, guys, but he looks just like you…"
"Brother," Dean says, almost expecting it at this point. "He's our brother. We're brothers."
"Ohhhh," the fireman says. "Gotcha. Either way, this is some kid you've got here."
"What, exactly, happened here?" Sam says, darting eyes to the smoking wreck of the Four Suits Motel.
"Ah, some kind of electrical thing. Place must've had the shittiest wiring in history. From the looks of it, damn near every outlet blew out at once. Anyway, the place lights up from like a dozen different rooms, fire spreading like crazy, and then—"
"Then, I helped!" Adam chimes in.
"Damn right, you did!" the fireman replies, ruffling some of the ash out of Adam's hair. "We get here, the place is already half-scorched to nothing, and here's this crazy-ass kid, kicking in doors, jumping over flames, knocking down walls, and pulling people out like it's nothing. We tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't stop. Every time he got one, he'd just go for the next one, like he could sniff out where they were or something."
Their mouths have switched. Dean's jaw is hanging loose, while Sam's teeth are clenched and grinding like he's trying to eat a bowl of Sugar Frosted Nails (part of a balanced breakfast!). "That's… amazing," Dean says, feeling the grin creeping up on him well before it reaches his face.
"Shit, man. I've been doing this for eleven years, I've never seen shit like that. We've still got to sift through whatever's left once the fire is out, but everybody on the hotel ledger is accounted for. No missing family members, nothing. Your brother… ahhh… what'd you say your name was?"
"Adam," Adam says easily.
"Right. Adam here might damn well have saved everyone in the building."
Adam waves at someone out of Dean's eyesight, and he turns to see two little girls—identical twins, only slightly less creepy than those Shining girls—giggling and running off. From the slightly blackened look of their clothes, they were pretty close to the fire. From the slightly smitten looks on their faces, they've fallen victim to flame of a decidedly different sort. This can only mean trouble.
"They are gonna give you a fuckin' medal, kid. Every damn morning show in the country is gonna want to talk to you, reporters for freakin' miles around—"
Dean's head snaps around to look at Sam, whose eyes reflect Dean's thoughts quite nicely. Time to go.
"Well, Adam here is… definitely one of a kind," Dean says, giving him a much-deserved pat on the back. "Thanks, Mister…"
"Davis," the fireman says.
"Davis, thanks for the heads up, and for keeping an eye on him for us," Dean nods. "If you don't mind, we're gonna sit and chat for a while."
"We won't be in the way, will we?" Sam asks. The question is a ruse, of course. They're staying no matter what this guy says. But it sounds sincere, and that's what matters in the end.
"Oh, no, no, you two are fine. Just make sure he keeps going with that oxygen. Even heroes need to breathe, right kid?"
"Right!" Adam nods in that particular way that means he is essentially parroting back an answer drilled into his head. Now that Dean is thinking about it, he kind of wishes he could have been here for the conversation this 'Davis' guy had with Adam to get him to put the mask on. It was probably hilarious.
"Hey, you know my name, alright? So shout if you need anything," Davis says, giving them a brief smile before heading back to join his fellow firefighters. Dean smiles back, knowing he'll probably never speak to the guy again if they can avoid it. The job has its perks, but basking in recognition is just not one of them. Escape is now priority numero one-o.
They wait until Davis is out of earshot to spring their little brother. "Alright, squirt, time to split," Dean says, pulling Adam up.
Adam squirms out of Dean's grasp. "Why?
"Adam, recognition is bad, remember? The more people who recognize us, the harder it is to hide," Sam says gently.
Adam's crestfallen expression makes a strong appearance, even pulling out the goddamn Winchester Puppy Eyes (which apparently only Dean did not get) which activate at full power and try their damnedest to melt him into a puddle of sap. "But… Davis said they'd put me on the Today show. And it's almost night, and I can't be on the Today show if it's not Today. I'd have to be on the Tonight Show. And you hate the Tonight Show!" Adam says, pointing accusingly at Sam. "So we can't leave yet."
Dean tries not to laugh. He can't really fault the kid's logic, after all. He manages to get through with little more than a snort.
Sam coughs a little to get his own laughter out of the way. "You can't be on either one, Adam. Then everyone would know who you are, and we'd have to put you in a fake mustache and dye your hair."
"Or dress you in drag and make you shave your legs," Dean says, smirking at the tiny hint of horror that flits across Adam's features.
"So we need to leave before too many other people show up, and we get stuck here, okay?" Sam finishes.
Adam sighs, his glow dimming to near zero before he experiences a power surge. "I can't leave! Davis said I have to keep breathing this stuff. Because I breathed a lot of fire stuff, and fire is bad for your lungs. Even heroes need to breathe!" There's a hint of a smug challenge in that last statement: you gonna argue with a firefighter?
Dean picks up the oxygen tank. "So, we'll take it with us."
His baby brother should not be able to look so scandalized. "But… that's stealing. Stealing is wrong."
Dean shrugs at Sam.
"Adam," says the middle Winchester. "What's really going on here?"
The half-angel sighs, his eyes darting around for a few seconds before coming to rest on a group of people at the corner of the parking lot. The flame-kissed survivors are gathered there, quietly talking amongst themselves, a few crying and hugging, at least one laughing hysterically, probably from sheer relief. "I just… I don't know. They were all… talking to me, and it was nice. And. Davis made them go away, 'cause he said I had to breathe, but I didn't want to breathe, I wanted to talk. They liked talking to me and didn't look at me weird or anything, and… it was… just… nice…"
Dean gently places the oxygen mask over Adam's mouth as he trails off near the end, already out of breath. Apparently, this Davis guy wasn't just being cautious about smoke inhalation, and Dean kind of wishes he could go give him a more sincere thank you. "Easy there, buddy. It's okay," he says, trying to massage some calm into the kid before he passes out.
"I just… want to know they're… okay," Adam breathes, voice muffled by the mask.
Sam moves forward, silently communicating what Dean already knows. The cops will be here soon. It's kind of shocking that they haven't arrived already. In the group of survivors, he sees at least one lady with a microphone and a tape recorder. He hates to deny the kid his richly deserved reward, but they really do have to go. Too many people on Earth, as it is in Heaven, who want their heads for them to be making TV appearances. "They're fine, Adam. The firefighters and paramedics are gonna take good care of them. Meanwhile, we have to take care of you," Sam says as he wraps an arm around Adam to prop him up in case he decides to plop over, which is looking more likely by the second.
"I'll go get the car," Dean says. "You got angel-boy?"
Sam nods, so Dean heads over to make ready their escape. The walk gives him time to think, though he isn't sure he wants to. What's on his mind right now isn't going to lead to a good conclusion. That the kid was that thrilled just from people talking to him like he was a normal human being kind of takes Dean's heart and crumples it against a wall like an empty soda can. He and Sam both thought it'd be best to keep Adam… not locked up, but under wraps, at least until they could teach him the finger points of human interaction and how to go out in public without sticking out like a sore thumb. A green sore thumb. That is also on fire.
But now… fuck. No matter what they called it, they have kept him locked up like a fucking house pet. Even if it is for his own good (because, as today has proven, Adam is a trouble magnet even on his best behavior), Dean can no longer justify keeping the kid cooped up like the damn sideshow to their traveling circus.
He pulls the car around carefully, but doesn't get into position just yet. Like a lion stalking its prey, he waits for the right moment to strike. Of course, he isn't actually striking anything. Really, it's more like waiting for the right moment to flee from the snapping jaws of the media and law enforcement, eager to gobble them up. A much more appropriate metaphor would involve some kind of majestic herbivore waiting for an opening to escape a pack of wild dogs. Something beautiful, powerful, fluid and graceful with fantastic acceleration and a gorgeous black finish. If only he could think of something that fits that description…
Oh well, whatever. He can figure it out later. The getting is good, so it's time to get. Dean pulls the car up as close as he can get to the ambulance without looking suspicious, and Sam gently coaxes his semi-conscious little sibling into the backseat before climbing in behind him.
The oxygen tank, of course, comes with them, and no one even notices. Sammy is just that good.
In the rearview mirror, Dean catches Adam staring wistfully out the window.
"They're okay, Adam. You did good today, kid. You did real good," Dean says.
Sam puts an arm around him. "Take a good look, man. This is what it's all about. All those people out there are alive because of you. I'm sorry you don't get to stick around and hang out with them, but that's just how it has to be. They're alive, they're safe, and for us, that's enough… it has to be."
Adam nods sleepily, O2 strapped over his mouth, half-lidded eyes growing heavier by the second. "I did… not good."
Dean tries to give him a weird look. The effect is diminished by Adam's eyes being shut.
Fortunately, he finishes his sentence before he drifts off. "…did… awesome."
Dean pretty much agrees. He is buying this kid so much freaking ice cream; they'll need to eat it in a sauna or something to keep from freezing to death.
There are a few minutes of silence. The sun is on its last legs, turning the sky that perfect mixture of orange, pink, purple, and deep blue. This is Dean's favorite time of day. He kind of hates that Stephanie Meyer chick for tainting its good name with her vampire sex books or whateverthefuck they are. Twilight (but not Twilight) is awesome.
"He out?" Dean asks.
Sam nods, staring out the window with his brooding-and-pensive eyes.
"What's on your mind, Sasquatch?" he asks.
"Not much," Sam admits. "Just that we're terrible human beings. And complete failures as brothers. And atomic dickbombs for not figuring it out sooner."
"Funny," Dean says. "I was kind of thinking the same thing."
"I thought we were doing it to protect him," Sam says. "But now… I'm not so sure. Maybe on some subconscious level, I just kept him out-of-sight because it was easier."
Dean shrugs. "I don't know about my subconscious. Me and him, we don't get along, so we don't talk much. All I know is that he had a bunch of people treating him like a normal human being for like ten minutes, and he lit up like a friggin' flare gun."
"The job is lonely," Sam tries.
"Sometimes, but we're not letting him form super-strong lifelong attachments to people. We're just letting him try and talk, learn something about someone besides us, figure out how normal people work. 'Cause you and me are about as far from normal as it gets."
"No argument there," Sam says. "So, we're agreed. No more Adam-the-latchkey-kid."
"Not if we can help it. He comes with us, he learns something. Even if he just watches."
"Alright," Sam says. A beat passes before he speaks again. "I'm gonna need you to back me up later."
"I always back you up," Dean says offhand.
"No, I mean, when I talk to Adam about this," Sam clarifies.
Sam's tone, Dean recognizes almost immediately, heralds nothing good. "Wait, what's there to talk about? You're not gonna get on his case about this, are you? He saved like a dozen people, Sam!"
"And nearly killed himself doing it!" Sam points out. "Smoke inhalation isn't a joke, Dean. Eighty percent of all deaths from indoor fires come from smoke inhalation."
"Thank you, Sammypedia," Dean quips.
"Hahahahaha, whatever. Dean, he needs to learn the difference between putting himself in danger to save people, and sacrificing himself for them. Most of the times we've gotten screwed, it's because we didn't know where to draw that line," Sam insists.
"Dude, come on. You cannot punish him for this."
"I'm not going to! I just want to talk to him about it, and, you might remember me saying this, I want you to back me up when I do, okay?"
"Alright, alright," Dean says, surrendering. "But afterwards, we buy him ice cream."
"Okay, which pagan god are you sacrificing him to? You're trying to fatten him up! You practically give him more ice cream than food," Sam says.
Dean is offended, damn it. "Hey! He likes ice cream… and I don't hand it out for just anything. He has to do something cool first. This qualifies."
"Fine, ice cream. But I want some, too."
"Try doing something cool and we'll talk."
"Dean, I saved you from getting three of your fingers chopped off today. I'd say that qualifies."
"I'll take it into consideration," Dean says, noncommittally.
"You know you love it," Dean grins. The conversation reaches its end, and Dean continues to steer them towards the fading light at world's edge.
The electronic camera snap jars him a little. In the rearview mirror, his eyes catch Sammy putting away his camera phone.
"Dude, what's with the shutterbug act?"
"I'm making a photo album," Sam says simply.
"For who? You gonna put it on your MyFace?" Dean snorts.
"It's Myspace, and I don't have one. It's for all of us."
Ugh. How much more unmanly can you get? "I think I'll leave the scrapbooking to you, princess, but thanks for the offer."
"Suit yourself," Sam says with a smug smile.
"Oh yeah, that reminds me," Dean says offhand. "We should ask Adam where he put our stuff when the fire broke out after he wakes… up…" All it takes is hearing himself actually say the words for him to realize how stupid they are. "…all our shit got toasted, didn't it?"
Sam's voice contains audible grimace. "I'm guessing 'yes.'"
"Son of a bitch," Dean grunts, taking out his frustration on the steering wheel with several loud smacks. "When you give your little lecture later on, try to slip something in there about priorities, or economics, or how expensive some of our shit is."
"I'll take it into consideration," is Sam's reply.