Title: Hidden Grace
Summary: There's a reason no one can find Michael. Oh yeah, and Dean's not just a Vessel. AU.
Spoilers/warnings: Uh… season five? In general? You know who Gabriel is, you're good to go. If not, DON"T READ THIS. Instead, go watch the episode 'Changing Channels' like, right now. No real pairings, although maybe a slight suggestion of Dean/Castiel.
I've seen variations on this plot before, and it's kinda awesome, so I had to jump on the bandwagon. No one's quite written it the way I'd like to see it, so… I'm trying.
If you spot a typo, please let me know.
"Hey boys," a smug voice said.
Dean spun around.
"Gabriel," he said, with a mix of annoyance and oh-thank-God-it's-just-you in his expression.
He was never exactly happy to see Gabriel, but next to dicks like Zachariah and Uriel he'd take Gabriel any day. Besides, Gabriel was on their side. Sort of.
Gabriel smirked at him, like he'd read Dean's thoughts, which he probably had.
Frigging mind-reading angels. No respect for privacy.
"Gabriel," Sam greeted the archangel, looking a bit happier to see him than Dean was. "What's up?"
Gabriel's grin went back to smug.
"Call Castiel for me," he ordered. "I've got some information for you bozos."
His entire demeanour screamed I know something you don't know, bitches.
Dean scowled, but reluctantly fished out his phone to call the other angel.
"Hey Cas," Dean said. "Gabriel's here. Apparently he's got something important to share with us, because he keeps bouncing around like he needs to pee."
Gabriel aimed a glare his way, while Sam snorted, before trying to pretend he hadn't as Gabriel glared at him as well.
"I will be right there."
Dean hung up just as Castiel appeared in their motel room.
"For the record," Gabriel said, giving Dean an indignant glare, "yes, it is important, and I looked nothing like I needed to pee."
Sam snorted again.
"Actually, you kind of did, Gabriel," he offered.
"Shut up, Sammy."
"What is it you wish to tell us?" Cas asked, cutting through the arguments before they could properly get started, going straight to the point as usual.
The annoyed expression on Gabriel's face melted away to be replaced by a self-satisfied one.
"Yeah, about that. You guys know no one's heard from Michael for a while now, right?"
"We are aware that Michael has been missing for some time," Castiel confirmed.
"Well, it turns out there's a really good reason why no one can find Michael," Gabriel said, grinning like the cat that caught the canary. "Come on, I'll show you."
He snapped his fingers.
There was a rush of vertigo, and Dean was standing on the edge of a forest, Sam stumbling beside him while Cas stood as steadily as a rock, looking totally unaffected by the sudden relocation.
"The hell?" Dean snapped. He hated it when Gabriel did that.
"Dean." Sam sounded awed. "Look."
Dean followed Sam's gaze, and forgot his irritation.
Not far from them at the edge of the forest, towered the biggest damn tree Dean had ever seen. It was strong. It was solid. Its leaves were green and huge and healthy.
"Dude, that is one big-ass tree," Dean said, trying not to sound too impressed.
Gabriel walked forwards, and the rest of them followed him.
Up close, the tree looked even more… amazing, was really the only word. It was like the most perfect tree possible, and the whole area around the tree felt peaceful and safe.
"Is that…?" Sam began to ask, sounding like he half-dreaded the answer.
"Yep," Gabriel replied, looking upwards. "You're looking at the current repository for Michael's Grace."
Dean moved a little closer, drawn to the magnificent tree, unable to help staring. He could feel it, great and mighty and somehow benevolent.
It felt weirdly familiar.
"So, if that's Michael's Grace, then where's Michael?" Sam asked.
And without even thinking about it, Dean reached out and slapped a hand against the trunk of the tree.
It was like falling in reverse.
One minute he was human and small and fragile; the next light and fire roared into him, huge and bright and glorious and just, lighting up his soul like a sun and filling his body almost to breaking point.
Grace spilled over into wings, six of them, massive and powerful and bronze-orange.
At the same time, memory and knowledge poured into his head, slipping into the many, many gaps he hadn't know were there, broadening his mind and perceptions.
Michael opened his eyes.
Castiel was gaping at him, mouth and eyes opened wide in absolute shock, almost fearful.
Gabriel was standing in grim, angry disbelief, a hand clamped over Sam's eyes to prevent him igniting at the sight of an archangel's true power.
Michael hastily stuffed as much of his Grace back into his body as he could, except for the ethereal wings filling the sky behind him.
Sam struggled out of Gabriel's grip, and Gabriel let him go.
"Gabriel – what the hell–" he spluttered as he turned back around, stopping at the serious, stunned way Michael was staring at them.
He hadn't expected this. Any of it.
"Hello, Michael," Gabriel said, coolly and deliberately.
Michael couldn't help it; his wings instantly fanned out aggressively at the dark note in his brother's voice.
"Screw you, Gabriel," he snapped back, before he realised belatedly that this was not the best way to start this.
He took a deep breath out of habit, and forced his wings down and back into a more neutral position.
Gabriel's own wings were tense, curving close to his back in ready defensiveness should things turn ugly. Michael supposed that he couldn't really blame him, considering how things had been the last time they'd seen each other, before he was human.
Castiel's wings were a mess of askew, dull feathers, a reflection of his failing Grace. They hung limply from the angel's back, in shock and hopelessness, and if Michael had wanted to he could have easily torn them open to leave Castiel utterly defenceless. Castiel wasn't even trying to keep himself safe; it was like someone in a safari park just lying there waiting for the lions to come and finish them.
"Fuck," Michael said in pain, and reached out to yank the younger angel close.
Gabriel made a hasty movement, preparing to intervene, but Michael just hooked his fingers into the dishevelled feathers and poured Grace into Castiel's wings, unable to stand the forlorn state of them or the defeat in Castiel's posture.
Cas made a little gasping sound in his ear, but Michael held tight, and even when he had filled Castiel to the brim with Grace and let the torrent cut off, he stayed wrapped around the other angel in the desperate hope that Castiel would understand what Michael was trying to impart.
Reluctantly, he let go, and turned to face his other brother.
"Dean?" Sam's voice was small, and he sounded freaked.
"Kinda, Sam," Michael replied. "You know how you were just asking what happened to Michael?" He gave Sam a strained, self-deprecating grin.
Sam's eyes went wide, as he got it instantly.
"No. This isn't happening," Sam said, taking several hasty steps backwards. "You can't seriously be – be –"
"The archangel Michael?" Michael supplied, feeling a sinking in his Grace. "Sam, you saw what happened with Anna. I'm sure you can figure it out from there."
Sam shook his head in denial.
"No. No way."
"Hate to break it to you, kiddo," Gabriel said, watching Michael with inscrutable dark eyes, "but Mikey's pretty unmistakeable. And Dean? Is definitely Michael."
"I can't deal with this," Sam blurted, the expression in his eyes confused and broken.
"Sam!" Michael called urgently; but Sam had turned and fled, across the greenery towards the road in the distance.
Michael shut his eyes.
"None of this was supposed to happen," he muttered. "Not like this." He wrapped his wings around himself, felling horribly off-balance and vulnerable.
"Oh, really?" Gabriel's scathing voice cut in. "So why don't you tell us how it was supposed to go, Michael?"
Michael opened his eyes and raised his head to meet his brother's gazes.
Castiel looked bewildered and almost cowed, a look Michael had never seen on the angel before and didn't like to see now, although he didn't look as utterly lost as he had earlier. Gabriel's eyes were calculating and unforgiving and curious, and he looked nothing like the archangel Michael had known.
Through Dean's eyes Michael had perceived how indifference and loss and bitter sorrow had twisted Gabriel; now, himself with Dean's memories and his own perceptions, the state Gabriel was in was clear and obvious in a way that it hadn't been before Michael had become human.
Gabriel had been terribly damaged, but had anyone even noticed?
It might not have been Michael's fault, exactly, but it was his responsibility, because he was the one who was supposed to hold them all together, and in the end destroy Lucifer. But everything had gone wrong and Michael couldn't fix it, and then he'd gone and run away instead.
"I'll tell you everything," Michael said, painful earnestness and sincerity cutting through his voice like broken glass, and he let his wings fall, leaving him exposed and vulnerable.
This chapter… turned out way better than I expected. Figures Michael's just as broken and messed up as Dean, right? I didn't even plan it; it just wrote out that way.