It was the eleventh hour, and they all knew it. There were very few options left, and the ones in front of them were distasteful to say the least. It was when Sam started talking about saying yes to Lucifer, and Dean didn't have a better idea...that was when the hope started to fade from the older Winchester brother.
They were sitting in their hotel room gloomily, both brothers with dusty tomes on their knees, poring through lore in the hopes of finding something, anything that might be able to help. Dean ran his finger along the page, skimming for important phrases. Nothing. Not a damn thing.
He looked at his brother, doing the same thing on his bed, and wrenched his eyes away. No. There was no way he'd let his brother dive into the Pit with Lucifer. No way he'd let his brother become a vessel when he wouldn't do it himself. And definitely no way they'd both say yes and have to fight one another to the death.
"Damn it, Castiel!" Dean jumped at his brother's voice, and turned around to see the angel standing there, looking confused by Sam's reaction, as always. Eventually one might assume that, even if he didn't understand the cause, Castiel would expect the surprise. Apparently not.
"We have to go," Castiel said shortly. He held his hands out to the brothers.
"Woah, woah, slow down," Dean said. "Go where? And why?"
Castiel stared at him. "I have uncovered one last...individual whose aid we can seek in our mission," he replied.
"Who?" Sam asked, putting his book down and standing quickly.
Castiel hesitated. "It is better for me to bring you there. You may not understand if I explain it to you. Take my hands."
They did as he said, if tentatively. "I warn you," Castiel added, "that this journey will not be a pleasant one. I am growing weaker, and we will be traveling a long distance. You may become ill."
"Great," Dean said lightly, belying the twisting in his stomach. The thought of flying or anything that flying could be used as a metaphor for made him nervous. "Air sick. Do we get doggie bags?"
Sam rolled his eyes while Castiel looked at him blankly. "I don't know what that means," he said, "but I doubt that the answer is yes. Are you prepared?"
"Sure," Sam said, and Dean nodded tightly. Castiel watched him for a moment, noticing his discomfort, but then apparently deemed it less important than whatever he was taking them to do.
Ill was an understatement.
Dean fell to his knees as soon as there was ground to fall on, retching. He could see Sam double over out of the corner of his eye, but it was seeing Castiel on his level that worried him more. As soon as his stomach calmed he crawled over to the angel, whose nose was bleeding copiously, joined by a small stream starting from the corner of his mouth. "Cas!" he coughed, gagging again.
Sam hobbled over to them, crouching by Castiel. "Cas, are you okay? Can you stand?" he asked, putting his arm around the angel's shoulders.
"It is of no consequence," the angel murmured. "We are here. Pray he will hear us out."
"Who is it? Cas? Who are we here to see?" Sam asked, helping Castiel slowly to his feet, while Dean stumbled to standing in turn.
Castiel shook his head. "He will explain. Do not anger him. Do not...do that thing that the two of you always do, where you pretend to be braver than you are and are rude to prove it. Allow me to do the talking."
The brothers shared a glance, and Dean said, "Cas, you're in no shape to be talking to anybody. If this thing's dangerous, you need time to recover."
"Time is not something we have in excess," Castiel argued, "and it does not matter how strong I am. He will either help us or he will not."
Dean was about to say something back when he heard a door opening. He noticed his surroundings for the first time. They'd landed in the middle of a two-lane road, surrounded by quaint cottage-style houses with well-manicured, fenced-off gardens. Flower beds bloomed in every yard, and those tiny European cars were parked in some of the driveways. It was also colder than he'd remembered, he suddenly realized with a shiver. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and it was day. Morning. But more than any of that, he felt such an overwhelming sense of love in this place. He turned to the sound of the door.
A man stood on the porch of the house closest to them. He was tall—probably nearly Sam's height—and wore maroon linen pants and a white linen shirt, with a string of beads around his neck. He was barefoot. And damn, was he beautiful. Dean didn't notice other men's looks much, but there was no denying it about this guy. He looked angelic, in the meaning of the word Dean would have used a couple of years ago. Soft golden curls haloed his face, which had the planes and angles of a classical statue. And there was something about him, something that rolled off of him, that made Dean just want to like him. He would have jumped at the chance to grab a beer with this guy.
The man didn't move for a moment, but shook his head slowly. He then walked down the stairs of the porch, up to the brothers and Castiel. He stood in front of them, but looked only at the angel. He smiled a soft smile. "I figured you'd be here sooner or later," he said, his British-accented handsome baritone soothing. "Mr. Castiel. It's good to see you again."
"Adam Young," Castiel replied, carefully, thickly through the blood. "Thank you for seeing us. And you have no need to refer to me as mister."
The man smiled a little wider, and took a step back. "I believe this will be a conversation that requires tea, if not something stronger," he said. "Please. Follow me."
The three travelers did so, Dean watching the whole area warily. If Adam noticed, he didn't mention it. As they neared the door, a woman stuck her head out. She was pretty in a boyish sort of way, with short, flame red hair and freckles dotting her nose and strong cheekbones. "Adam?" she said, glancing worriedly at the Winchesters and Castiel. "Guests? Oh, hell, Adam, is he all right?"
Adam nodded, and the tenderness that radiated toward the woman was breathtaking. "Yes, Pep. And would you let Jesse know that he has visitors? He'll understand."
Dean froze, and looked to Castiel, who did not look back but nodded once. Jesse? As in the Antichrist, Jesse? Fantastic. The kid already said no. The woman looked displeased, but went into the house and upstairs, calling the boy's name. Adam ushered his guests into the house, closing the door behind him and leading them into the living room.
Sam helped Castiel down, and he and Dean took seats on either side of the angel. The sofa was overstuffed and very comfortable, obviously broken-in. The living room was sunny, filled with similar furniture, with a glass coffee table in the middle. Toys were scattered across the floor, and a bookshelf was stacked with a variety of books, as well as cozy family portraits. Dean studied them for a minute. Adam and his wife, with various combinations of three flame-haired children. They looked so happy. What was such a nice, normal family doing fostering the Antichrist?
Instead of sitting, Adam crouched by Castiel, studying his bloodied face. "What happened?" he asked.
Castiel considered the question for a moment, but replied truthfully. "I am cut off from Heaven, Adam Young. My powers grow weak, and it strains me to travel, even alone. With my companions, more so."
Adam nodded as though he understood, and continued to study Castiel until his wife appeared in the doorway. "Jesse says okay and he'll come down later," she said. "Want to tell me what's going on? Also, are you sure he's okay?"
Adam smiled at her. "Pepper, this is Mister...this is Castiel. You probably don't remember him but I met him in '87." Pepper froze at the mention of the year, but nodded. "And these are Sam and Dean Winchester."
"You are Pippin Moonchild," Castiel said, and the brothers exchanged glances once again, although it hadn't slipped Dean's notice that Adam knew their names. Pepper noticed and sent them a nasty glare.
"Pepper Young," she corrected. "It's Pepper Young. But yes, I suppose, have we met?"
Castiel shook his head. "No. I met only Adam. But there were none in the Garrison who did not know of his companions."
"Pepper, can you make sure the kids are off? Send them outside, or something? I'm sure Castiel has important things to discuss with us," Adam said gently.
Pepper left, and Castiel stared at Adam in something like a bland version of horror. "You have children," he said.
Adam shook his head. "They're my step-children," he replied. "Pepper's from a previous marriage. I'm not stupid. I made sure I wouldn't pass anything on to innocent children." His expression softened as a little girl ran into the room, and he scooped her into a hug. "Ah! Sarah, darling, go play with your brothers. Your mum and I have to talk to our guests."
"Why is his face all red?" Sarah, who was perhaps five years old, asked, pointing at Castiel with a look of curiosity on her face. Castiel lowered his eyes.
"Don't worry about it," Adam said. "Daddy will take care of it. Now go play." He set her down and she ran outside, screeching after two bigger boys who were already in the field behind the house. Dean saw Pepper shut the glass door that led outside, and she came to join them in the living room. Adam met her eyes, and a moment passed. Pepper nodded, and Adam turned back to Castiel, raising a hand tentatively. "May I...?" he asked.
Castiel's eyes widened. "I have no right to request that of you," the angel said.
Adam laughed. "I have a feeling you're about to request a lot more, so what's this, one way or the other?" he asked, and when Castiel nodded, he laid his palm on the angel's cheek. A faint glow of amber light surrounded Castiel, and when it faded, the blood was gone from his face, and even the dark circles around his eyes had vanished. He looked years younger, less weary. Satisfied, Adam stood up and walked to Pepper, giving her a kiss on the forehead before settling in an armchair across the coffee table from the brothers and Castiel. "So. I understand you gentlemen have an Apocalypse you're dealing with."
"We do, Adam Young," Castiel said, cutting off Dean, who glared at him. "The sixty-six seals are broken and He walks the Earth." Adam winced at that, which was a touch gratifying to Dean. At least the man knew what was going on and had the good sense to be afraid of Lucifer, whatever else he might be. "We have little time before the end. The Horsemen ride in America." At this Adam and Pepper shared another indecipherable look. "We need any help that we can acquire. The end approaches."
Adam looked down at his hands for a moment, contemplatively. He then closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. "How much do the Winchesters know, about me?" he asked Castiel.
"I told them nothing but that you have the power to help us," Castiel replied.
Dean shook his head. "Jesse already said no, man," he said. "It's no good asking twice. The kid isn't going to say yes."
Castiel glared at him, more emotion on his face than Dean had probably ever seen, but Adam just smiled. "I don't think Castiel brought you here to talk to Jesse," he said. "And if he had, I wouldn't let you see him. The boy's gone through enough."
"So we're here to talk to you," Sam said. "Why?"
Adam hesitated. "You know what Jesse is," he said, and Sam nodded. Adam's mouth moved as he tried a couple of beginning words, then sighed in frustration. "This is...weird. Castiel, I kind of wish you'd told them ahead of time."
"Your decision to see us, as well as who you tell of your lineage, is yours and yours alone," Castiel said, and the deference in his voice set Dean's teeth on edge.
"Oh, bloody—" Pepper exclaimed, and gave a loud sigh of exasperation as the men all turned to her, surprised. "Adam, you want them to know?" Adam nodded, looking a bit alarmed at his wife's outburst. "Adam was the bloody Antichrist. There. Was that so hard for either of you grown men?"
Sam was shaking his head. "Jesse is the Antichrist," he said. "We know he is."
Adam spun his golden wedding ring distractedly. "He is," he said. "But I was. I was the Antichrist of 1987."
Dean whistled. "Fan-freakin'-tastic. So what, do you guys have like, yearly editions or something?"
Again that look from Castiel, that shut up you stupid ape before you get killed look. But Adam laughed out loud, his blue eyes wide with surprise and amusement. "God, no. But 1987 was the last time the hosts of Heaven and Hell attempted to trigger the Apocalypse. They got pretty far. All four Horsemen, signs aplenty, death and destruction and doom. And I was the Antichrist that time." He shrugged. "I suppose it has to be a kid, because nobody's been in touch."
"'87?" Dean echoed, dubious. "I was eight. I think I would've remembered if the Apocalypse had almost happened."
Adam nodded agreeably. "Probably you would have," he said, "except that everyone's memories of it were erased. Mostly. Not mine or Pepper's, and not the hosts." He looked at Castiel, who nodded.
"What stopped it?" Sam asked.
Adam met his eyes evenly, and Dean saw his brother shiver just a little bit. "I did," Adam replied quietly. "I decided I didn't want the world to end. So it didn't."
"Could you do it again?" Dean asked. "Just...decide the world shouldn't end?"
Adam turned his gaze to Dean, who understood why Sam had shivered. The man's blue eyes were kind, a little sorrowful, but they were abyssal. Sometimes he looked at Castiel and he saw the depths of power and being that were hidden behind Jimmy Novak's body, but that was different. Adam was just...Adam. And Adam was the Antichrist. No veil, no vessel. The eyes released him as Adam looked down. "This requires something stronger than tea," he decided, and slipped into the kitchen.
An awkward silence hung in the air for a moment, until Castiel, never the world's leader in small talk, said, "You grew up a more attractive woman than your childhood visage predicted, Pippin Moonchild."
Pepper snorted, but grinned at Dean, who looked pained at Castiel's words. "Thanks," she said. "And it's Pepper."
"Pepper," Castiel repeated, nodding. "My apologies."
A stair creaked, and the whole room looked to the staircase. Jesse stood at the foot of the stairs, gripping the rail. "Hey," he said after a moment.
"Hey, Jesse," Sam said quietly.
Jesse stared at them, then crossed the room to Pepper, who put her arm around his waist. "I'm still not gonna fight," he said.
"Nobody expects you to, Jesse," Sam said, placating. "That's not why we're here."
Adam returned with his hands full of bottles of beer. He smiled at Jesse, who smiled back, tentative. "They're here to talk to me, Jesse. I just didn't want to hide their visit from you. This is about you, too. You deserve to know about it."
Jesse's eyes flickered between the Winchesters and Castiel while Adam distributed the beer. "This is making me nervous," the boy said tightly.
Everyone tensed except for Adam, who went to the boy and knelt by him, taking Jesse's hands between his. "It's okay," he said soothingly. "Deep breaths with me, Jesse. Deep breaths with me." The boy acquiesced, and he breathed deeply and slowly with Adam. The tension in the room dissipated after a moment, Dean pulled a long swig of his beer, and Adam grinned. "Fantastic, Jesse."
"Sorry," Jesse said to the others.
Adam settled back in the chair, and Jesse sat next to him on the floor. "The question was, can I stop this Apocalypse the same way that I stopped the last one?" Adam said. Dean sat up straighter. "The answer is no."
Dean sagged a little bit. Of course. "But?" he prompted.
Castiel interjected, "Anything you can do to help, Adam Young, would be appreciated. We are running out of options. Our current plan is to allow Sam to acquiesce to acting as Lucifer's vessel, and attempt to pitch himself into the Pit with Lucifer."
Adam looked startled. "You want him to dominate my father in a mental arm-wrestling match and drag the old bastard back to Hell?" he exclaimed. "That's your plan?"
"Lucifer is your dad?" Dean cried, then reined himself back in when he saw Jesse's eyes flash. God, what a room to be in. He took another swig of beer.
Adam nodded, placing a calming hand on Jesse's shoulder. "Remember, I was Plan A," he said. "The original. Don't ask me how it happened. But yes. Lucifer is my father." He looked at Sam. "And no offense, Sam. I've heard your potential for psychic power is impressive. But my father is old, very old, and he won't be afraid to hurt you in...imaginative ways to control you. I think it's a bad idea."
"So do I," Dean agreed. "But we don't have another one. As of now, at least."
"Could you?" Sam asked. "Fix this, I mean."
Adam was quiet. He looked at Pepper, who shrugged and shook her head—she had nothing to add. Out of the hallway the sound of paws could be heard, and a smallish, slightly elderly-looking dog of no apparent breed in particular, with one ear inside-out, walked in, whining, and butted his head against the Antichrist's leg.
Pepper noticed first. "Are you all right?" she asked, sitting up straighter. Adam turned his keen eyes to Dean, frowning.
"That's—that's a Hellhound," Dean stammered.
Adam frowned deeper. "How did you—" he began, but then he stopped, and his face fell. "Oh, my God. I am so sorry. I'm so, so sorry. Dog, out." He stood up and walked to the kitchen, the little dog following him. He opened the glass doors and shooed the dog out. "Go play with Sarah and the boys. Out!" With a piteous whine the dog left the kitchen, and as Adam closed the doors, Dog sat there with a mournful look on his face.
"Your Hellhound is named Dog?" Dean asked, composing himself. He tried to keep his hands from trembling, but couldn't quite manage it.
Adam smiled wearily. "Well. I was eleven. Not a hugely imaginative eleven, either. It's part of the reason he ended up like he did." Adam sat back down in his chair, but only on the edge of it. "When I described him...I described him like that. He's harmless, Dean, I promise you. He wouldn't hurt you."
Sam cleared his throat, and Dean and Adam both turned to him. "Look, I don't mean to be impatient," he said, "but we keep avoiding the question. Adam, can you help us stop the Apocalypse?"
Adam took a deep breath. "Yes," he said.
Somehow the moment was less jubilant than Dean had anticipated. "Yes, but," he said.
"Yes, but, you don't want me to," Adam said.
"I doubt that," Dean shot back. "We are low on allies right now, man."
"I could help you," Adam said. "I could take out the hosts. Hell, I might even be able to force my dad back downstairs. I could rearrange the atoms of the universe so that whatever cage was holding him exists wherever he happens to be. And again, I could make you all believe it never happened."
There was a coldness in his voice that Dean was not fond of, and a hardness in his eyes that had not been there before. "So why don't we want that?" he asked cautiously.
"Because if I stop the Apocalypse, if I defeat my father for you, then the next thing you'd have to hunt would be me," Adam said dully. "And believe me. You can ask Castiel. You don't want that."
He leaned forward and grabbed his beer, sipping it. He suddenly looked very tired. "I've spent the last twenty-two years learning how to be Adam," he said softly. "How to not be the Antichrist. Just like I've been teaching Jesse. I was lucky—I had a head start. I wasn't given to the Satanists I was intended for when I was born. There was a mix-up in the nursery and I was raised by the very nice and very normal Youngs. But it's in here. My father's heritage. It's always in here. And it's hard to fight. It's gotten easier, but it hasn't gotten easy." He stroked the beads around his neck with his thumb.
"So you can't use your powers anymore, because if you do, you'll go dark side," Dean said. Adam nodded. "How'd you heal Cas, then?"
Adam took another sip of his beer and put it back down on the table. "That's different," he said. "My father was once an angel, you know. Lucifer. The Light-Bringer. Healing is a...I guess you'd say a light-sided power. I've managed to cultivate a couple of those. But the big guns, the ones that would be useful in your battle, that I can't do anymore. Not without risking getting out of control." He smiled sadly. "I'm really sorry. I wish I could help you."
"That's okay," Dean said, anger bubbling just below the surface. "It's not like we're not used to disappointment. Let's go, Sammy."
"Um, Dean, I think we're in England," Sam said hesitantly as Dean stood from the couch and made his way to the door.
Dean flushed, glad his back was to the rest of them. "Right," he said. "Look, we have an Apocalypse to try to avert. Cas, Sam. We ought to go ahead and get to it."
"Wait," Adam said. Dean turned around to see that Adam had stood up from his chair. The Antichrist walked up to him. "I can't give you the help you were looking for—I can't stop this Apocalypse for you, not without causing a new one. But perhaps I can strengthen you, a bit, before your fight."
Sam stood up and joined them. Dean knew why. It was the same reason he had no inclination to move, to jerk back when Adam put his hands on both brothers' heads. Adam wanted the two of them there. So there they were.
Adam closed his eyes, and Dean felt the power rippling through the man's body like static electricity. When it started to ripple out of Adam and into the Winchesters, he straightened with a jolt. Sam did, too.
Adam let his hands fall back to his sides, and opened his eyes. "Just a bit of resilience," he said quietly. "Some defenses. For whatever it is that happens."
"Thank you," Sam said, his voice breathy. Maybe Sam could feel whatever it was that had just happened more strongly. Dean just felt...tingly. "Seriously. Thank you."
Adam sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "It's the least I could do," he said, "but the most I could do safely. And hey. When you see my dad, could you give him a message from me?"
Sam hesitated. "Sure," he said.
"Tell him Adam said to piss off," the Antichrist said. He stuck out his hand, and both brothers shook it. "You two be safe, be smart. And thank you."
"For?" Dean asked, as Adam released his hand.
Adam looked out towards the yard, and in the bright morning light the Winchesters saw his three children running outside, the boys shoving each other in what appeared to be a particularly vicious game of tag while little Sarah played with Dog. "I can't keep them safe, this time," Adam said. "Not if I want to be their father. If the Apocalypse happens, I know that Hell won't be happy to see me. You're biting the bullet for me. You're the ones who can keep my children, my wife, safe." He turned back to them. "I won't forget it," he said fervently.
Pepper walked up behind Adam, nudged him aside, and took both Winchesters into an embrace that was more forceful than her frame suggested she was capable of. "You take care of yourselves," she said fiercely. She turned to Castiel, who was hovering awkwardly by the couch, walked to him, and embraced him as well. Dean stifled a laugh at Castiel's baffled expression. "You too, you stiff bugger," she said. She released Castiel, who went to stand by the Winchesters, and Pepper went back to Adam, who wrapped an arm around her. Jesse stood behind them. "You boys are coming back after all this nasty mess is done," Pepper ordered. "And call ahead next time, I'll put a roast on. We'll swap Apocalypse stories."
"Lady, we will take you up on that," Dean promised.
A few more pleasantries later, the Winchesters and Castiel were outside of the Youngs' house. Dean stretched, releasing his breath in a long exhalation. "Well, that went...less well than it might have, but surprisingly, not worst-case-scenario."
"Yeah," Sam breathed. "I mean, I guess the blessing of the Antichrist is...something."
"Certainly better than we've gotten from most other angels," Dean said, "present company excepted."
"I know," Castiel said flatly.
The three of them stood in the yard for a moment while Castiel braced himself for the trip home. Dean frowned. He wasn't sure the angel could make it back, even bolstered as he was by Adam's healing.
Before he had to try, the door opened behind them. They turned and saw Adam hurry outside. "I totally forgot, I'm sorry," he said quickly. "Where were you?"
"What?" Dean asked, but Castiel interrupted: "Singer Salvage in Nebraska will be fine, Adam Young, thank you." The relief in his voice was palpable.
Adam smiled. "Give 'em hell. Or something." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Give 'em humanity," he decided, and laid his hands on the three of them.
There were no nosebleeds this trip, no nausea, and Dean decided that the only way he liked flying was when he flew Air Antichrist.