Title: With a Whimper
Author: castiel's vein
Beta: skylar_matthews
Rating: Mature
Warnings: Language, violence, possible smutty things, major character death, vessel angst, grace issues, spoilers for seasons 3 through 7, AU from season 6 episode "Mommy Dearest"
Full summary: Adam Milligan is free from the Cage, having been rescued by Michael while the archangel was using his body as a vessel. On the surface, the world looks the same, but nothing could be farther from the truth: something big is coming, and Adam is smack in the middle of it. He tries to run - wanting nothing to do with the world of the supernatural anymore - but he can't run from what's been festering and growing inside him ever since he and Michael broke free. His estranged half-brothers, the Winchesters, try to help, but there's only so much they can do. And the day will come when Adam has to face his destiny of Biblical proportions - or die trying.
Disclaimer: This is Eric Kripke's sandbox. I'm just playing in it. I make no profit from writing this.

I hope you guys like what follows! This is the result of NaNoWriMo 2011 and then some, as I kept on working into January and even February to make sure this was finished the way you guys deserve it. Please R&R but most importantly, enjoy!

The first time, Adam Milligan was born of blood.

He came out of the womb on the twenty-ninth of September 1990, as the first and only son to Kate Milligan. His father wasn't present for the birth, much as he wasn't present for the majority of Adam's life; he just existed as this vague concept of 'father' that Adam never really understood or fully grasped until he turned twelve and forced Kate to reveal his father's name. John Winchester. The surname would be the death of Kate, of Adam, of everything he thought he knew to be truth.

The second time, Adam Milligan was born of earth.

Voluntarily pulled down from Heaven after agreeing to help a group of angels stop the Apocalypse, Adam awoke in a wooden coffin with dirt in his mouth and worms in his hair. He dug his way out and, once his hand broke the surface, was plucked from his grave by an unfamiliar angel with strikingly blue eyes who merely dropped the boy on the ground like the baggage he was.

The third time, Adam Milligan was born of light.

Trapped. Always trapped. Trapped in John Winchester's lie, in Zachariah's trickery, in his own body. The light in the green room hadn't just been any kind of light, but a purity that burned through his skin and touched him to the core so that he felt he was being ripped apart and caressed all at once. Every cell in his body screamed pain, but something stayed to comfort him. A voice. His own name. A gentle touch, and he was gone. And he was there. Michael the archangel, using his body because Adam was tricked into saying yes, into giving his consent, because he was always trapped. And then Adam watched as if it were a movie: Stull Cemetery, Lucifer, his half-brother Sam Winchester, and the Cage. The open hole in the ground that he'd gotten dragged into. And there he stayed. Trapped again.

The fourth time, Adam Milligan was born of fire.

The darkness wasn't a problem until he felt a sharp pain sting his cheek, almost like he was being slapped. How curious. For Adam, a slap in the face was almost a welcome gesture at this point; it was a sign he was worthy of a simpler reproach that didn't involve being eaten by a ghoul or burned with holy oil.

It wasn't until a few seconds later that he registered the cold, hard floor beneath him and the light breeze on his face that stirred his hair and tickled his nose with the scent of oak and wood and tree rot. He forced his eyes open, feeling as though he hadn't done so in eons.

What he saw he wasn't prepared for. He'd been expecting the fires, the chains, the hooks that pierced his hands and ankles, the barbed wire that wove its way around his arms and legs. And Toretan. He'd been expecting Toretan most of all.

Instead, he was lying in the middle of a black-and-white tiled floor, his arms and legs splayed out around him as though he'd just decided to flop backwards and make a snow angel. Without sitting up, he turned his head from side to side slowly, hearing the bones in his neck crack as he did so. He winced slightly but then relaxed as the pain receded and relief set in. Silently, he absorbed his surroundings, and judging by the very blasé furniture to his right and the official-looking desk to his left, he figured he was in some sort of hotel.

Hotel Hell? Adam thought to himself. Is Toretan really that out of ideas?

The hotel – if that's really what it was – looked completely fallen to shit. The grotesque red wallpaper was peeling everywhere and dust one inch thick covered most of the furniture. The chandelier hanging above Adam was drowning in spider webs. As far as Adam could tell, he was lying on the only clean spot on the floor: a giant circle that surrounded him and gave him an extra few feet to maneuver around in.

He lay there motionless for what felt like hours but was really only minutes, anxiety overtaking him each time he dared so much as breathe too loudly. If Toretan was nearby, he wouldn't want to be discovered. Maybe lying on this dirty floor for the rest of eternity didn't appeal to most people but compared to what Adam Milligan had been through, it was like he was being offered first class on an airplane, and damnit he was going to enjoy the ride.

A creak sounded somewhere near Adam's feet and he looked down the length of his body to see a hallway facing him. There was no light emanating from it, but he could still make out the shadow standing at the far end. Adam internally prayed that the shadow was just a bookshelf or a large painting, but when he shifted to sit up on his elbows to ease the ache in his neck, the shadow moved and began to glide towards him.


He struggled onto his elbows and attempted to sit up all the way but his muscles and bones protested. He'd barely started leaning with his hands behind his back when the shadow approached and stood at the divide between the hallway and the hotel lobby. It stood there and stared (or at least, Adam thought it was staring. It was hard to tell when he couldn't see if the thing had eyes).

Adam knew the thing had seen him – he was only a few feet away – so he had no qualms about clearing his throat and attempting to speak to it. If he was going to die – here, now, again – might as well fit in some famous last words. The problem was, Adam's throat was so dry that he couldn't even cough without feeling like his mouth was on fire.

Without warning, the shadow moved forward so quickly Adam was certain it had disappeared and reappeared kneeling at his side. Kneeling. A young man with dark hair and sharp green eyes set in a hardened, olive-skinned face. Totally unfamiliar yet at the same time it was the face of a friend.

His voice was monotonous: "Don't strain yourself. Your body won't thank you for it."

Adam tried to respond but his voice failed him yet again and all that came out was a little croak. The man frowned, worry lines appearing on his forehead. In a split second he was holding out a glass of water to Adam, who could've sworn that it hadn't been there before. Or maybe he was still disoriented from waking from a sleep that seemed like it was years long. Whatever the case, he was hesitant as he reached out towards the glass.

"What's the catch?" he finally managed to say hoarsely; his throat screamed in protest at his speaking but he did so anyway, health be damned at this point.

The young man continued to frown. "What do you mean?"

"Toretan." The name came out as a strangled sort of gasp.

"What...? You're not in Hell anymore, Adam. You're safe."

Safe was a relative term at this point in the game but Adam didn't have the energy to question this stranger's choice of words or ask him how he knew Adam's name. Instead, he complied with his throat's obvious desire for nourishment and accepted the water. His hand trembled violently as he gripped the glass and he nearly tipped the contents onto his own lap. The stranger quickly cupped the glass and Adam's hand with both of his own; he was warm and soothing, but at the same time Adam felt a dangerous spark prick his hand when their skin touched. Nevertheless, he kept Adam's hand steady as he helped raise the glass to his lips. Adam drank like a man possessed, downing the whole thing in two large gulps. When he was done, the man gingerly took the glass from him and set it aside.

Adam cleared his throat a few times before speaking again. "Where am I? And who are you? What's going on?"

The young man got off his knees and opted for sitting cross-legged beside Adam. He hunched forward with his elbows resting on his knees, a troubled expression on his face. Adam watched and waited, studying the still-unfamiliar face.

Finally, the man spoke. "We weren't supposed to end up here. I apologize for that. I brought us off course when escaping the Cage with you."

"You escaped with me?" Adam clarified, skin crawling. "So...you had to be in there...with..." He trailed off, realizing why this guy could be so strange yet familiar at the same time. "You're Michael, aren't you?"

The man – Michael – nodded. Adam collapsed back onto his elbows. Fucking Michael. It was just his luck to be stuck here with the archangel. Especially considering the fact that—

But Adam grabbed tight to his thoughts, preventing them from diving down into that hole that he'd tried so carefully to keep filled for all these years. He wouldn't think about the past...not now, at any rate.

Instead, he honed in on another part of Michael's statement. "What do you mean, you brought us 'off course'? Where were we supposed to go?"

Michael shook his head and talked as though he hadn't heard Adam's question. "Such a juvenile mistake to make...of course he would've attacked...should've been better prepared..."

"Mike?" Adam snapped his fingers in front of his face to get his attention.

Michael's head popped up and he glared at Adam. "My name is Michael. Not Mike."

"Sorry." He held up his hands in a halfhearted attempt at an apology. Really though, he couldn't care less about the archangel's nickname preferences (or lack thereof).

Michael clenched his jaw tightly before speaking again. "You don't remember being down there, do you?"

Michael's words brought Adam out of his hole. "Oh, I remember." Accusatory. Harsh. Venomous. "You abandoned me after, what was it, forty years? Just left me down there on my own so you could go have your stupid slap fight with your brother. And then it was another...oh, I dunno. Fifty? Sixty years? Time in the Stratum passes by so slowly that I just can't seem to keep track of how long I was really down there."

Michael didn't even blink at Adam's rage. "I did what I had to do. Surely you know that my duty is first and foremost to my Father, not to you."

"I gave you permission to use my body," Adam hissed through clenched teeth as he got up off his elbows; his anger was giving him the adrenaline push he needed to sit up straight unaided. "And you just stripped me off and tossed me down there."

"You're suggesting that I cast you off as soon as you became a hindrance," Michael said with the tiniest bit of amusement.

"That's what happened." It was a statement, not a question. Adam pushed himself off the ground and ignored the wave of dizziness that threatened to send him toppling back down. "So where the hell are we and how do I get away from you?"

Michael sighed from his spot on the ground but remained seated there. "From what I can gather we're in a hotel."

"Thank you, Captain Obvious."

Michael's eyebrows furrowed together in confusion and Adam sighed and rolled his eyes. He'd forgotten how out-of-touch angels could be. Granted, the only angel he'd ever really been able to have a proper conversation with that didn't involve, 'Get the fuck out of my body' or 'What the hell are you doing to me' was Castiel, and that was only for a brief couple of seconds when Castiel had been guarding him at that ramshackle house in Sioux Falls.

Adam's stomach gave a sudden lurch as he remembered – or tried to remember – the last thing that had happened to him on Earth; the name 'Sioux Falls' had jogged his brain. Memories that hadn't surfaced in the Cage came rushing back to him like a cresting wave and he could see everything in small flashes: the Winchesters, the old drunk named Bobby, Zachariah's cocky smile. His taste buds suddenly turned sour as he remembered the taste of his own blood, choking on it, spitting it onto the floor of that beautiful room where he'd been trapped and practically vaporized by Michael. Was that it, then? Was that the last thing that had happened to him when he was alive and pre-vessel?

He looked down at Michael as though he'd get an answer but of course he received nothing but an empty stare.

"You said we went 'off course.'" Adam repeated. "Wanna elaborate on that a bit?" He resisted the urge to call him 'Mike' just to piss him off but he turned his back on him to show his continual annoyance.

The archangel was suddenly standing in front of Adam in the blink of an eye. Adam flinched backwards and nearly slipped in the dust that coated the floor.

"I was raising you," Michael said. "Carrying you out of the Cage. I'd finally found a crack in the system, a weak spot in the walls, and I was getting ready to break us both out of there." He paused, turning away from Adam so he could face the hotel desk, as though he were ashamed of what he was about to say and couldn't bear to look Adam in the eye. "Lucifer caught wind of what I was planning and tried to sabotage me. On the way up to the crack in the Cage, he attacked. I lost my concentration and had to fight him off while still keeping hold of you. Somehow we made it out, but we didn't end up where I wanted to be. We're here instead."

"Where were you taking us?" Adam asked.

"To Sioux Falls. I was going to drop you off with the Winchesters."

Adam scoffed at that. "Well it's a good thing you didn't."

Michael turned to him, pure confusion written on his features. "How do you mean?"

"Look, I'm sure you meant well and all, but I don't want anything to do with Sam and Dean."

"They're your family."

"Oh, right. Some family, leaving me to rot down there."

Michael pursed his lips. "I am sure it's not as easy as you think, breaking someone from the Cage without setting Lucifer free. But if there is one thing I know about the Winchesters from my little experience with them, it's that they wouldn't just give up. They might not have freed you, but I'm sure they tried to find a way to help you."

"Well if that's the case, how nice of them. Remind me to send them both a fruit basket for their efforts."

Michael stared so fiercely at Adam that anyone who wasn't already used to having one archangel pissed at you, let alone two, would've wet themselves on the spot. "You are ungrateful."

"And you're uncompassionate."

Again with the evil eye, but Adam stood his ground and stared right back at him.

"I did what I had to do down there, and that is all I'm obligated to say about the matter," Michael said. "I don't have to explain myself to you."

"Yeah, no, of course not. I only gave you permission to use my body indefinitely, but it's not like you owe me a decent explanation or anything."

Quicker than the speed of light, Michael grabbed Adam's shirt collar with one hand and swung him around to slam him against the front desk. His lower back came into hard contact with the edge and he winced and nearly choked on his heart as it leapt into his throat. Suddenly frightened for his life, Adam watched as though from someone else's vantage point as Michael held tight onto his shirt collar and grabbed the bottom hem with his other hand, pinning him there.

"Don't ever presume that you have some kind of control over me," Michael hissed. "You think that just because I needed you once that you have some kind of value? That I won't hesitate to toss you back into Hell if you become too much to handle? You need to understand, Adam Joseph Milligan, that just because you were my vessel doesn't mean you get to – as they say – 'call the shots.' I owe you nothing. You're lucky I even bothered to take you with me. You're lucky I didn't just drop you when Lucifer attacked me. So show me some respect."

He released Adam, who hadn't realized he'd been holding his breath and so he gasped for air as soon as he was freed from the archangel's grasp. His heart was back in its proper place but it was thudding wildly against his chest; Michael had never treated him with such violence before.

The Cage, Adam's inner voice tried to rationalize, The Cage changes everyone. Michael is no exception.

They stood staring at each other for a moment while Adam tried to fight back tears of shame and frustration. Michael didn't seem to notice and his hardened gaze never softened or moved from Adam's face. It was a stare-down that Michael won when Adam turned his face away and mumbled, "So what're you going to do with me now?"

Michael crossed his arms over his chest, pretending to think it over, but Adam sensed that he already had a game plan. "I'm bringing you to Bobby Singer's. I believe that your brothers will be there and they'll take care of you. From there on, it's not my responsibility to look after you anymore."

"Wait. You're...you're unloading me on them?" Adam's voice rose an octave in disbelief.

"I am not unloading you. They're your family. I am not. You're not mine to look after."

"Right, but—"

"Adam, there's no argument to be made here."

"What makes you think they'd even want me there? They clearly didn't go out of their way to get me out of the Cage, so I'm thinking they're perfectly fine in their little universe of two." Adam paused. "Zachariah was right. They don't give a rat's ass about me, so long as they have each other."

"Families can grow. Expand. You are just as much a brother to them as they are to each other. You have just not had as much time together as they have." Michael was trying to be comforting but really, he wasn't doing such a fantastic job.

Adam shook his head in disagreement and sighed, running a hand through his hair in a frustrated manner, but he didn't say anything. They were running in circles now, endlessly chasing each other's arguments like a cat and a mouse. There'd be no getting through to Michael now, not when they had only just popped from the Cage like some kind of twisted jack-in-the-box, and though Adam had more than his fair share of questions, it was clear that Michael wouldn't be answering any of them. Like he'd said, he 'owed him nothing.' Still...

Before Adam could suggest they reach some sort of compromise, Michael was reaching out to him with two fingers and saying, "Close your eyes. You might get dizzy."

It was a good thing that Michael suggested he close his eyes; the moment his fingers touched Adam's forehead he felt his feet lift off the ground and there was a light brush of feathers against his cheek. Wings? Adam wanted to peek but something in the back of his mind warned him against it, that it would be rude and possibly dangerous to do so, so he kept his eyes shut and trusted Michael not to drop him as he felt themselves travelling at some kind of warp speed through the heavy, dense air.

Only seconds later, Adam's feet hit the ground again hard and his legs buckled beneath him. He crashed down with a yelp, nearly spraining his ankle in the process.

"Thanks for the warning," he snapped as he knelt there and massaged his ankle back into working order.

Michael didn't respond but merely looked around, drinking in their surroundings. Adam did the same, and if it hadn't been for the giant sign that read SINGER AUTO SALVAGE, he wouldn't have had a clue as to where he was. He had never seen the outside of Bobby's house before as he was kept on lockdown mode inside the house the first and last time he was here. Broken and battered cars littered the yard; some of them were only slightly used looking while others were simply skeletons. It was a strange assortment of wayward vehicles but Adam found it appropriate for Bobby, who seemed to have no issues taking in wayward humans as well. Otherwise he wouldn't be here.

Suddenly a horrible thought struck Adam and he remained on one knee, staring at the dirt with unnecessary concentration. What if the Winchesters didn't want him there? What if they rejected him? Where would he go? Granted, he wanted nothing to do with their lifestyle choices and he was more than ready to give both of them a good kick to the nuts, but an invitation would at least be nice. Especially when Adam had nowhere to go. Michael obviously wasn't looking to adopt a human puppy, his mother was gone, and everyone in his hometown thought he was dead. There weren't exactly a lot of options for him.

Michael seemed to think that Adam was on the ground due to pain, because he reached down and touched a finger to the back of his neck to try and heal him. It didn't do anything physically, but Adam swore the anxious pit in his stomach was lessening.

Michael frowned as he lifted his finger from Adam's neck, as though he'd felt something rather unpleasant back there, but when Adam reached over his shoulder and touched, he couldn't feel anything unusual.

"What? What's wrong?" he asked, eyeing the slightly perturbed look on Michael's face.

"Nothing's wrong. Shall we?" Michael asked, and without waiting for an answer he started walking down the dirt path towards the house.

Adam cursed under his breath before getting to his feet and slumping after him. He tripped over little scraps of metal strewn across the pathway but he made it to the front door in one piece. Michael stood there, waiting patiently for him to catch up. Adam stood on the bottom step; hands shoved into his pants pockets, and watched as Michael reached out with one hand to either open the door like a human being or break it open with his angel juice. Apparently, Michael liked to arrive in style, and so the lock on the door broke of its own accord and the door itself flew open, smashing into the wall behind it. Adam heard the sound of glass breaking; either a photograph or a vase, he couldn't tell.

"We could've knocked," Adam said gruffly.

Michael ignored him and strode right inside, leaving Adam out on the porch. He kicked at the creaking wood underneath his feet and leaned against one of the posts, still too nervous to actually go inside and greet his brothers. Again, he had no idea why he was the one who was nervous – after all, wasn't it well within his right to be absolutely furious with them for leaving him down there? He attributed his anxiety to post-Cage jailbreak and tried to shake it off.

A loud shout from inside the house caught his attention. It sounded like Sam. Adam's stomach lurched at the memory of his enormous, bulky sibling and he tried to blend in with the outdoor surroundings in case anyone came running.

He could hear Michael speaking in hushed tones, trying to explain who he was, and Adam eavesdropped a bit. Apparently his current vessel was a new creation, not a previously existing human, and the only reason it was keeping Michael in tact was because he'd used atoms of John Winchester's to bind himself together. He'd been able to do it fairly quickly before Adam woke up—

At the mention of Adam's name, he heard Sam stop Michael from speaking. A heavy silence followed and Sam asked Michael if he was talking about Adam-their-half-brother-Adam. Michael answered with a terse 'yes, that Adam, he's out on the front porch.'

Adam's shoulders tensed as he heard pounding footsteps in the house, getting louder and closer until Sam Winchester appeared in the doorway, out of breath, eyes open wide as he saw Adam standing there on the bottom step. His large hands gripped the doorframe tightly and behind him, Adam could see Michael standing ramrod straight in the kitchen with his hands behind his back, like a soldier who'd done his duty.

"Adam..." Sam gasped. He released his white-knuckled grip on the frame and staggered over to his younger brother, one hand slightly outstretched as though to touch him, to assure himself that Adam was really there. But Sam didn't do more than let his hand hover there, unsure of himself, of Adam.

"Hi, Sam" was all Adam could really say. Sam's hair was longer than he last remembered and he seemed bulkier, more muscular, but it was still Sam, still the same guy who'd tried to get through to him back when Adam was alive and ready to throw himself at Michael's feet to be used as a vessel. The memory of his own eagerness brought the taste of bile to his mouth but he quickly swallowed and continued, "It's...it's great to see you." Not a lie. He was happy to see Sam. The question was: is Sam happy to see him?

He got his answer when Sam took one enormous step down to Adam's level and clapped him on both shoulders before bringing him into his chest for a hug. Adam's face was burrowed in his brawny chest but it was worth being choked; it meant Sam was happy that Adam was here. Adam awkwardly tried hugging him back but before he could get a good grip, Sam pulled away, his eyes shining.

Adam cocked an eyebrow. "You're not actually crying right now, are you?"

Sam laughed and rolled his eyes skyward. "It's just...it's great to see you too, Adam. We never...we thought..." He trailed off.

Adam could sense Sam's discomfort coupled with relief, so instead of standing awkwardly on the porch together he motioned to the house with a quick head-nod. "Wanna talk it over inside?"

"Yeah," Sam said breathlessly, blinking quickly to get rid of the moistness.

He motioned for Adam to walk ahead of him and so he did, taking his first official steps inside Bobby Singer's house. At the other end of the house Michael stood, still waiting for them in the kitchen with a blank expression on his face, as though the miniature outpouring of brotherly love did nothing to warm him or at least make him crack a smile.

Sam turned to shut the door behind him but saw that it was nearly falling off one of the hinges. He shot Michael a look but said nothing, instead opting to make due with the screen door for now.

"Still burrowed at Bobby's, I see," Adam couldn't help but comment as he took note of the piles of beer bottles and ancient books stacked on nearly every flat surface in the kitchen.

Sam chuckled. "We kind of have to, at this point. Things have been, uh...pretty chaotic in the past year."

"Year?" Adam's ears caught the telltale word. "I've been...it's been a year?" He rounded on Michael. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"You would've found out soon enough without my help," Michael said stiffly.

The noise that came out of Adam's mouth was one of half disgust, half annoyance. "So you just kept that important piece of information to yourself, did you?"

Michael sighed once, a quick one to demonstrate his annoyance, before saying, "I apologize. It was silly of me to think that the amount of time passed would be unimportant to you."

It wasn't much, but it would have to do for now. More than anything, Adam wanted to kick him, but he knew that would be pointless and besides, with the way he was acting, Michael would probably just vaporize him on the spot if Adam so much as lifted a finger against him.

Sam, however, wasn't having it. "What else have you not told him?"

"Plenty. And it's for his own good."

Sam scoffed. "Right, because your kind know so much about what's good and what's bad for us."

Michael unclasped his hands from behind his back at last and took a step towards Sam. "My kind? Would you like to be a little more racist? My kind are the ones keeping this planet together. And the last I checked, you didn't seem to have a problem with Castiel helping you with your little crusades. Which, by the way, was very cute. I haven't forgotten. Holy oil Molotov? Very creative."

Adam winced and Sam tightened his jaw before speaking again. "All I'm saying," he said, struggling to keep his voice to a reasonable decibel level, "is that you shouldn't be the one to decide what to tell Adam and what to hold back. He deserves to know everything and you shouldn't be making his decisions for him."

"I've spent decades in Hell making his decision for him so I think you may be a little late on that call."

"You're a tactless son of a bitch."

Adam jumped at the new voice that seemed to come from nowhere. Without warning, a hand clapped him on the back and again he nearly jumped out of his skin, startled. He turned, and there he was.

"Dean," Adam said tonelessly.

Dean Winchester forced a smile, hand still on his shoulder, though his eyes were full of reluctance. Over Dean's shoulder, Adam saw Bobby Singer approaching from the staircase, jaw dropped and hand on a gun he was keeping in his back pocket. No doubt Bobby's first instinct was to shoot him for being a...a demon or a shifter or something else other than himself.

"It's me, Bobby," he promised. "All of me."

"Did you check him?" Bobby said, ignoring Adam and speaking only to Sam.

"No," Sam admitted sheepishly. "But..."

He motioned to Michael, whom Bobby finally saw for the first time, having eyes only for Adam at the moment. His jaw dropped even lower if possible as he regarded Michael with fascination and revulsion. Somehow, Michael was instantly recognizable, even in a vessel. Adam attributed it to something innate that the archangel carried, some kind of otherworldly knowledge instilled in the back of the human mind that wasn't activated until they were in his presence.

"What the hell is he doing here? What are both of them doing here?" Bobby demanded. Adam flinched as he heard not a single note of happiness or relief in the old man's voice. He knew it. He was unwelcome here.

"I took the liberty of breaking us both out of the Cage," Michael responded. "You're welcome."

A heavy silence filled the kitchen as Dean released Adam, allowing the youngest to take a step back. Knowing both Dean's and Michael's hotheadedness, he could only guess at the kind of explosion that was to follow.

"You're welcome? You're the one who got him stuck in there," Dean snapped as he rounded on Michael. "Grabbing Sam like that and getting pulled in. What a stupid thing to do."

Michael didn't seem fazed. "I'm not the one who got him stuck in that room."

"And I'm not the one who gave the orders to pull him out of Heaven to be used as a friggin' puppet."

"You could've easily avoided all of that by saying yes in the first place."

"Do you want me to ram my foot up your feathery—"

"How about we all agree that you're both idjits?" Bobby interrupted. "We've got bigger fish to fry right now and as long as that's really Adam and he's doing okay..." He suddenly trailed off and looked at Adam with a suspicious glint in his eyes. "How are you doing okay?"

"What do you mean?" Adam asked.

Dean turned to regard his youngest brother with a sudden interest. "No, wait a minute." He paused. "He's right Adam. You should be a drooling, fetal mess right now."

"Well thanks for your unwavering support."

"That's not what he means," Sam stepped in helpfully. "It's just that...when I came out of Hell, after I got my soul back, we had to put up a wall to protect me from my memories. They would've just...completely broken me." He frowned. "It's just a little too convenient that you're walking around like nothing's wrong."

"So, what? You want me to be unhinged? Losing my mind? Hey, I can play that card if you want me to," Adam said none too kindly. Then again, could you blame him? They seemed almost disappointed that he wasn't a useless, limp puddle of tears.

"I noticed the disturbance as well," Michael piped up. He ignored the glares he was receiving and took a step towards Adam. "When I healed you earlier, your soul felt strong."

"Well, great."

"Too strong."

"And that's bad because...?"

"Because I'm not the one who strengthened you. I was planning on it while you were still unconscious, but I felt your soul stitching itself together. It was still weak at the time, but just now, when I brought you here and healed you..." He frowned. "It's a truly remarkable recovery rate."

"So something fixed him out of the goodness of its heart?" Dean asked. "Without saying a word, or – or trying to make some kind of shady deal?"

"It might not've been a demon, Dean," Bobby said with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Well what then? Is Death just going around handing out free walls to everybody who pops out of the hot box?"

"You're looking at me like I've got a damn clue."

Dean looked at Adam, shaking his head. "I don't like this. It's too sketchy."

"We'll have to deal with it when we get back. Come on, Cas is waiting downstairs," Bobby said, motioning for Sam and Dean to follow him as he turned towards the basement door.

"Cas is here too?" Adam remembered Castiel from the last time he was here. He hadn't spent much time with the trenchcoat-wearing angel, but he'd been nice enough from what Adam remembered.

Michael, on the other hand, picked up on a different part of Bobby's statement. "Where are you all going?"

"Eve," Sam and Dean said at the same time.

"We know where she is and we're gonna gank her before she gets a chance to get away," Dean explained.

Michael cocked an eyebrow. "You can't be serious. Eve. The Mother of All. How is she here?"

"Purgatory" was all Dean said. Michael's jaw tightened but he said nothing.

Adam had no idea what they were talking about and he was about to say so when Sam brushed past him, saying, "We'll go take care of Eve. Adam, you stay here."

"Why do I have to stay?" Adam asked.

"Because you don't know jack squat about hunting or what we're up against. Trust us, you'll be better off staying here. Safer," Dean assured him.

Adam shook his head. "That's not what I meant. I mean...why do I have to stay here at all, period?"

Everyone in the room looked at him, even Michael, which Adam thought was silly because the archangel already knew his feelings on joining the Winchester road trip to getting your ass kicked.

"You don't want to be here?" Sam asked, hurt laced in his voice and making itself visible in his eyes. Adam had to turn his face away; it was so evident.

"Look," he began with an exasperated sigh, "I'm really happy and all that you're all huggy-bear big brothers with me, but in case you don't remember from a year ago, the last time I got involved with you and your shit, I got killed. In fact, whenever you guys are involved, I get killed. So I'm not just gonna sit this one out. I'm gonna get out." He started towards the front door. "It was nice of Michael to drop me off to say hi, but—"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. You're not just leaving," Dean said, grabbing onto Adam's shirt collar like he was a puppy. "You just got here. And we've got things to talk about."

"You left me down there to rot," Adam said through clenched teeth. "There's nothing else to talk about."

"Yes there damn well is," Dean growled at him. "You can't just run from this. We're gonna talk it out like a civilized family."

"Family. Right," Adam said with a derisive laugh. "That word sounds really pretty coming out of your mouth in the right situation, but I'm starting to think Zachariah was right. When it comes down to the basics, everyone else can go fuck themselves so long as you have Sam and he has you. Fine. I don't blame you. You're brothers. But don't drag me into your shit with this fake family smile only to turn your back on me when I need you, okay?"

Everyone was stunned into silence, and even Michael looked a little uncomfortable being in the middle of what was starting to look like yet another lovely family reunion. Dean swallowed hard and looked over at Sam as if asking for an answer that the other Winchester didn't have. The blank and slightly injured looks on their faces was enough for Adam to know: he had a point. He might not be completely, totally, one hundred percent correct, but at least he had a point.

Eventually it was Bobby who spoke first. "Listen, I'm all for putting band aids on wounds that need healin', but this isn't the time. Adam, you sit your ass down and you stay here. We'll talk when we get back."

"I am not—"

"And if you leave, we'll find you and drag your sorry ass back here," Dean added, interrupting Adam's protests. "Come on Sam, Bobby. Let's go." He started towards the basement door with all the air and aplomb of someone intent on kicking ass and taking names until he remembered Michael was still standing there. "You can, uh, go. Thanks for bringing Adam here."

Michael frowned a bit before slowly turning and sinking into a kitchen chair, pulling his feet and knees up so he could hoist himself to sit on the backrest rather than the seat itself. His feet were propped up on the actual seat and he looked like an eagle perched on a branch. "I'll stay here and wait for you to get back. There are things we need to talk about, Dean. Just you and I."

Dean's face clouded over as he regarded Michael's words with careful consideration. Sam seemed to be holding himself back from saying something while Bobby looked as though he were itching to shoot Michael between the eyes. Adam knew, of course, what Michael was referring to, and he understood the sudden tension in the room, but he didn't understand why Michael didn't just leave and pop back up to Heaven in the meantime. After all, he'd been away for quite awhile...unless, of course, this was a ruse so he could babysit Adam and keep him from running, which he had every intention of doing, archangel stalker or not.

"Fine. We'll talk later. I can't guarantee I'll listen, but we'll talk," Dean said brusquely before glancing over at Adam, snapping "Stay" like a command, and heading down into the basement.

Sam clapped Adam's shoulder as he passed by and mumbled, "Don't leave. Please," before following his brother. Bobby left with a quick nod in Adam's direction and did the same, shutting the basement door behind him.

Adam tiptoed over to the basement door and held his ear against it, ignoring Michael's curious stare and slightly cocked head. He heard their muffled voices – Castiel's included – before there was the rustle of feathers and then dead silence.

That was his cue to leave. He smirked a little and straightened up before turning and striding purposefully for the door.

"Where are you going?" Michael asked as he stayed rooted to his seat.

"Out for a beer," Adam couldn't help but say, hit with a sudden rush of déjà vu as he remembered Sam asking him the same exact thing over a year ago.

He heard a snapping sound behind him and without warning, a beer appeared in his right hand. Adam stared at it, too surprised to say anything snarky in response. He could almost feel Michael's smirk on the back of his neck, the cocky bastard.

"You need only ask. I can bring you anything," Michael said calmly from his perch.

"Thanks." He put the beer down on the table in the hallway. "I'll drink it later." It was a lie, but so what?

He started for the front door again.

"Now what?" Michael asked, and this time he sounded a little annoyed.

"I'm leaving."

"You're supposed to stay here."

"Yeah? Watch me," Adam snapped as he flung the screen door open and stepped out into the afternoon South Dakota sun. He took one look at the dirt path ahead of him and started out at a comfortable walk, but when he heard the sound of Michael's chair scraping against the hardwood floor – he was getting up – Adam broke into a desperate run.

In retrospect it was definitely a stupid idea. How was Adam supposed to outrun a archangel? His legs might be long and he might be fast, but no way was he going to make it very far when all Michael had to do was zap himself from point A to point B. Still, Adam managed to make it all the way to Bobby's property line with the wind whipping through his hair as his mad sprint brought him ever closer to the road, when Michael suddenly appeared in front of him, standing just beyond the rusted metal arch that read SINGER AUTO SALVAGE. Adam tried to change direction and duck around Michael – again, why he thought he was quicker than Michael, he didn't know – but as soon as he tried running past, Michael grabbed him around the waist and yanked him into his chest, one hand accidentally slipping between the bottom hem of Adam's shirt and his jeans to touch the smooth skin of his stomach.

And without warning, Michael let out an uncharacteristic yelp and dropped Adam on the ground. He landed on his rear and backside with a cry of pain.

"What the hell was that for?" Adam snapped as he lay there panting and trying to catch his breath. "What am I, electrified or something?"

"Yes," Michael gasped, staring at his hand as though something had bitten it.

Adam stared up at him from his spot on the ground, confusion lining his face and filling his blue eyes. "I...I'm what now?"

Michael didn't take his eyes off his hand. "You shocked me. Not electrically, but...something connected..." he tore his gaze from his hand and zeroed in on Adam, making the human feel a lot like a butterfly pinned to a corkboard. He hesitated a moment before stooping down and reaching out to him with one hand, but Adam backed away on his hands and rear.

"What're you doing?" Adam asked worriedly.

"Stay still," Michael demanded, slightly annoyed. When Adam obeyed, Michael scooted forward a little bit more and touched a hand to his forehead.

Something warm. Soft. Burrowed deep inside Adam's body. His soul? No, his soul couldn't possibly be this magnificent, this horrifically beautiful. Michael closed his eyes and tried to feel deeper, shoving past the little bits of Adam so he could sense whatever this foreign thing was. No. Not foreign. Familiar. Too familiar. Much too strong.

Horror suddenly passed through Michael's face as his eyes widened and he stood up so fast Adam was dizzy.

"What?" he asked, panicked as he felt his forehead as though searching for a feverish temperature. "What is it?" He saw the look on Michael's face, the disbelief and dread spreading across his features. "What's wrong with me?"

"You...inside you..." Michael breathed. "You have an angel's grace inside of you."