Weeks passed. Adam poured all his energies into research. Turned out he also had picked up an ear for dead languages while in Hell, but no longer having the scroll of Hell's Laws, he wasn't finding anything useful.
Dean came and went. It hurt to stay around the salvage yard to see Adam hunched over old texts in the same chair Sam had preferred.
He tried to summon crossroad demons, but no one would show. In fact all demonic activity was quiet. He screamed for hours for Alfred to come back, even yelling out promises of the largest ball of twine to fetch, but the Hellhounds never burst onto the scene and the implications of that, that Sam was no longer their master, or Dean by default, plummeted his last grasp on hope.
Lisa left several voice messages, but Dean couldn't bring himself to replay them. As much as he cared for her, he couldn't go back to her as though everything was the same.
Nothing was gaddamned the same.
Which was why Dean found himself back at Bobby's, sitting on the Impala in the dark, drinking flat beer and missing Sam so badly he thought his heart would splinter under the weight.
Footsteps crunched on gravel. Adam reached to touch the hood of the car, yet held back as though he didn't have the right to touch her. "I miss him."His tone was quiet.
Dean stiffened, hearing inflections of Sam. Canting his head, he studied Adam through the corners of his eyes and his heart hitched at the sloping creases in the kid's forehead. He'd known Adam as a ghoul and as Michael's vessel, but only for a few brief moments as himself, angry and sarcastic, wanting to believe Zachariah could get him back to his mom. Dean hadn't known that Adam's eyes could appear so damn vulnerable . . . and look so much like Sam's.
He looked away.
"You know . . ." Adam shuffled from one foot to the other. "One of the things Sam missed the most down there were the stars."
Dean took a pull from his beer. "He told you that?"
Adam nodded. They both grew quiet, thoughtful.
"He also liked hearing about my mom." Adam's smile was sad. "He wanted to know everything. What brand of mac and cheese she made, was she the kind of mom that liked sports? Did she read bedtime stores or sing lullabies?"
Dean rolled the neck of the bottle between his finger and thumb. "Yeah. Sam would want to know all about those kind of things." He didn't want to hear this, not from Adam. Yet, he was desperate to hear anything about Sam.
"Yeah." Hands in his pockets, Adam rocked back and forth on his heels. His face lifted skyward.
Without looking to the side, Dean passed his beer to Adam and nodded when the kid inched closer and hesitantly took it. "So, did she?"
Taking a swallow, Adam handed back the beer and edged over to sit on the hood beside Dean. Sam's spot. "She what?"
"Your mom—Kate. Was she into sports?"
Adam's lips quirked into a genuine grin. "Pro wrestling."
"Every Saturday. She knew every wrestler and all their drama. She'd yell at them through the TV."
Grinning, Dean nodded, reconciling his brief image of ghoul Kate with the petite nurse rooting for her favorite wrestlers.
They talked on, each relating their own stories. By the time Dean told Adam about John mistaking a little old granny for a soul-sucking harpy and sputtering apologies after nearly gutting her while she whacked him repeatedly with an umbrella, Dean and Adam were both holding their stomachs in laughter.
When the laughter ebbed, Dean turned to look at Adam. Sam loved this kid and the kid loved Sam, had given Sam something to fight for. Adam's presence in Hell was probably the only thing that kept Sam from breaking—because he couldn't afford to. That meant something. As an older brother, Dean got that.
"You know," he said. "Sam was determined to get you out. Him being in there isn't your fault."
Adam's eyes lifted to him and he nodded once, though Dean could tell he didn't really believe it. They slipped back into silence and looked up at the stars.
Two days later, Dean was in the basement, searching for a pig's snout. No demons would deal. He couldn't believe he was resorting to witchcraft. Bobby said the ritual could at least give them a glimpse into Hell, like a weird crystal ball, and they'd at least know what was going on down there. Witchcraft or not, it was worth it to Dean. He hoped Bobby got back soon from gathering more of the rarer ingredients from Rufus.
"Dean!" Adam's shout raised all the tiny hairs on the back of his neck. The tone was full of terror. "Dean!"
He'd never gotten up the stairs so quickly. Gun drawn, Dean slammed out of the front door.
There in the yard with his back to him, stood a golden haired man in thick robes.
Adam, also with his back to him, stood between him and the stranger. A swell of protectiveness surged into Dean.
"Adam, get back."
So did the stranger. Angel. Michael.
The robes swirled with his movement, revealing what the Archangel held. Dean's breath caught in his lungs.
Michael cradled him like an infant, dark head resting on his chest, long legs and arms dangling limply. He was filthy and bloody, clothes torn, and for one horrifying moment Dean thought the Archangel was returning Sam's corpse.
Dean flew down the steps, shoving his pistol back in his waistband, and not caring about the recklessness of it, grabbed Sam out of the angel's arms.
He immediately went to his knees beneath the dead weight.
Adam was there, easing them both down before they could topple. The kid pawed at Sam's torn shirt, pushing it up to get to Sam's stomach. "Where's he hurt?"
Michael placed a hand on Adam's shoulder. "I healed him. He merely sleeps."
Dean's head shot up. His heart flared to life. "So . . ." His throat felt like gravel. Michael healed Sam. Sam was okay. "So, Sam won?"
Michael's features turned sorrowful. He shook his head. "He had no hope of winning. Your brother fought long and hard while my brother played with him like a cat to mouse. Yet every time he was beaten down, Samuel got back up. For such a fragile insignificant species, I have never witnessed the like."
"So, what?" Adam asked, apparently undeterred by the faraway look on Michael's face. "Lucifer just let him go?"
"Oh no." Michael's gaze flickered into something hard. "My brother would never have let his vessel go."
"Then how . . .?" Dean cried. Sam's head rolled on Adam's arm.
Michael smiled. "The moment Samuel could no longer lift himself off the ground, the Serpent won his throne and in so doing was bound by all the laws of Hades, including the Law of Innocents."
Dean frowned, wishing Sam would wake up. Why wasn't he waking up?
"Hell cannot keep a soul who has not been damned."
Adam gasped. "Sam beat the devil by losing to him?"
Michael beamed. "Lucifer is as imprisoned by his throne as he ever was inside the Cage. All is as it should be. The Morning Star reigns his kingdom, and I . . ." He looked fondly down at Sam. "I've much to redeem myself for. Beginning with the chaos left in Heaven."
The Archangel lowered, robes puffing up around him, and rested his fingers on Sam's cheek. "Awake, Samuel." And with that he disappeared in the sound of fluttering wings. A huge draft of air ruffled the brothers' clothes and hair.
"Mmmmmph." Sam moaned and the heavy piece of ice that had been Dean's heart for weeks started to thaw. He met Adam's tearful gaze, then shifted back to Sam who was rousing against him.
"Sam." Dean kissed the top of the dirty sweaty hair. He couldn't help it.
The dark lashes fluttered, lifting, finally revealing those soulful hazels he thought he'd never see again.
"Oh Sam." Breaking on a sob, Dean crushed him to him and felt Adam's arms slip around them both. Dean snaked his arm between Sam's side and arm to grab onto Adam's back and haul him in closer and felt the kid silently sobbing.
This. This was right.
These were his brothers.
Both here and together and alive. And his.