When Adam was twelve, his brother Dean was chosen as a tribute for their district. He could still remember the day. Dean had been so brave, standing up straight and strong, promising to make them all proud. Adam had clung to his mother's skirt and kept his eyes trained on Dean's back, aware it might be the last time he would ever see his brother. Sam and their father had stood there, John's hand on Sam's arm, keeping him by his side, aware that if they did anything, the soldiers from the Capitol wouldn't hesitate to shoot. They had tried to behave the way the family of a tribute should, they had tried to look as if they wanted this.
It had been Castiel who'd shouted. Castiel who'd run out of line and thrown his arms around Dean and clung to him. It had been Castiel who'd begged him not to go, who'd begged to take his place. It had been the first time Adam had ever realised that his brother was in love.
Dean had held Castiel at arm's length, told him he'd come back for him and then kissed him.
It had become Dean's motto. Every interview he'd done, he said he was coming back for Cas.
Castiel had watched everything, fingers pressed up to the screen of their battered TV set as if he could touch Dean if he believed hard enough. He didn't sleep. He hardly ate. He cheered every time Dean killed someone and he was quiet when it looked as if Dean might be in danger.
When Dean returned to them, Castiel had thrown himself back into his arms and, as far as Adam had seen, he'd never let go. Dean came back with a darkness in him. He wouldn't talk about what he'd done and he avoided every chance to praise him. He didn't give interviews or take part in events. He shut himself off in his house at the end of the village with Castiel and tinkered with his machines.
Adam knew that even though Dean had survived neither he nor Castiel had come through the experience whole. It was a dreadful thing to learn as a twelve year old.
Now it was four years later and Adam was sixteen and a new Hunger Games was beginning.
"Don't squirm," Kate said softly, her fingers shaking as she buttoned the top button on Adam's shirt.
"It will be fine, Mom," Adam said softly, reaching a hand out to stroke the stray wisps of hair back from her face. She'd have to redo her bun before they went to the town square. They couldn't look unkempt. This part would be televised too.
"I know, I know," Kate said, forcing a smile onto her face. "They wouldn't be so cruel to pick from our family again. Dean's already been our tribute. It will be fine." She stared at him for a moment and then hugged him close and kissed his forehead.
"Mom! My shirt!" Adam complained, knowing how long it took her to clean and wash it. He wrapped his arms around her though and held her tight. He was sixteen. If he survived this selection then he'd be twenty when the next one came around and too old to be chosen. Then he'd be safe. They'd all be safe. It would be someone else's children who'd be chosen for the slaughter. Adam suppressed a shudder and hugged his mom a little tighter.
He thought he heard her sniffing and then Kate pulled away, smiling at him. "Look at us, we'll be late," she said, scooping her hair back and retying her bun as Adam smoothed down the front of his shirt.
"It will be fine, mom," he repeated, turning away from her and opening the front door. Across the road the door to John Winchester's house opened and Sam stepped onto the porch. Adam raised his hand, half-waving to his half-brother and he started off to meet him. Sam was eighteen. After this year he'd be too old as well. They met in the middle of the dusty road and Sam slapped him on the arm, an uneasy lightness in his eyes. They both remembered the last time they had stood here, the last time that Sam had worn his best clothes and Adam had had his hair brushed down neatly.
Someone from their district would be chosen. Someone from it would die. That was the most likely outcome.
Almost on cue Dean appeared, holding his hand up to shield his eyes from the glare of the sun. Castiel was at his side, the way he'd been every day since Adam could recall and he nodded to the two of them.
"You ready to go then?" Dean asked them, one hand hovering at Sam's shoulder as if he was considering gripping him tight and pulling him away. It made Adam's stomach flip. The soldiers would search houses. They'd make sure that no one got away.
"Yeah," Sam said, nodding his great shaggy head and Adam wished they had some other reason to come together as a family rather than this.
The last time had been at Dean and Castiel's hand fasting ceremony and that wasn't a pleasant family experience. John's face had been set in stone and Castiel cried the whole way through. The officiate kept making references to Dean's victory as a tribute until Dean threatened to punch him. Everyone remembered how violent Dean had been, how he had shown no mercy and no one wanted to be on his bad side. The officiate had finished quickly and left them to shelter all together in John's house. The party that had been planned was abandoned, Dean taking Castiel home and all the food they had scrimped and saved to buy, that his mother had slaved over, had gone to waste.
Adam swallowed down those memories, his eyes prickling with the glare of the sun.
"We should get going," he said, shifting from foot to foot restlessly.
Dean nodded. "I expect Dad and Kate will join us later," he said, glancing between the two houses. When Dean's mother had passed on one cold winter it was Kate who had come to their door with sustenance, nursed John through his grief and born his son nine months late.
The son who was Adam.
"It will be okay," Sam said suddenly. "This is the last year for both me and Adam. There's no way they'll chose us." He smiled, obviously believing what he was saying but that didn't take the weight off Adam's shoulders.
"They'll still choose someone," Castiel said, looking past them and Adam knew he was thinking of the graveyard, of the children buried there who had not been as lucky as Dean, as cunning as him.
Sam's smile faded and he reached out to grab hold of Adam's arm. "We'll be safe," he said, beginning to walk towards the town square, pulling Adam with him. Already there were a number of people there, all the children of their district from the ages of fourteen to eighteen. They were being lined up, youngest to oldest and Adam swallowed hard. Dean had been eighteen when he was chosen but the one before him had been a few days past her fourteenth birthday. He didn't remember how she died. He'd been too young but he knew she hadn't come back. At least not alive.
Sam was somewhere behind him, older and taller and Adam glanced back to look at him as he took his place in the line. His brother looked nervous now and Adam knew that feeling. The odds of their names being called were so slim but they'd always said that and then Dean had been called. Adam knew it had to be torture for him to even be there, that he would rather have been anywhere but standing at the side-lines, seeing his replacement chosen. Whoever was picked would carry that weight, the knowledge that the last winner came from their district. It would be a heavy burden to bear when the odds were already stacked against them. Adam glanced across at Dean, standing there, looking up and down the rows. Castiel at his side was shaking already and Adam wondered if people were right, if Castiel really had gone mad sitting up and watching every second of Dean's fight. He had seen his lover kill people, murder them really, for his survival. That had to do something to someone's mind. Adam knew but he just shoved the thoughts away when they reared their ugly heads. Dean came back and that was all that mattered. Everything Dean had done was necessary.
There'd been a little stage set up at the end of the square and already people were fussing with cameras and microphones. This part would be filmed. The people needed to see their tributes, they needed to see the fear on everyone's faces. There was a woman on the stage wear a dark black suit with electric blue buttons and stitching. Adam recognised her from the last time – Meg Masters. She'd even come to their house to do an interview about Dean's loving family. She'd mocked Castiel and his fears, forced him to admit his love on camera for a message they could broadcast to Dean. Adam hated her.
He watched her tap the bowl from where all the names were chosen, her nails the same electric blue as her coat buttons. She would hold in her hands someone's death warrant in the next few minutes. She scanned the crowed with her dark soulless eyes, evidently without interest until she caught sight of Dean and Castiel and then she waved at them. Adam didn't have to be that close to his brother to know Dean would be swearing. Castiel hid his face in Dean's sleeve and Adam turned away, unable to look at them because it was too painful.
The Capitol liked pain though. They liked fear. Demons, all of them, with their black eyes and broken souls. They were the ones who'd thought up the games. They were the ones who kept them going.
"Adam!" He turned then, hearing his mother's voice and she was with his father, the two of them hand in hand and Adam couldn't remember the last time he'd seen them like that. He knew how hard this had to be on both of them. Dean and Sam might not be her children but Kate had become like a favorite aunt to them. They were all family now, blood or not.
"Mom!" he called back and she smiled at him.
Everything is going to be alright, Adam told himself feverishly. It would be some other family who would be suffering the torment tonight. It wouldn't be them. Not again. It couldn't be.
They had to wait for the soldiers to search the houses. No one was missing this time. Once when they were much younger and it was Dean's first year entered into the draw he had found a cave in the hillside where they could hide out. They had taken food there, Castiel had camouflaged the entrance with leaves and twigs until it looked just like the undergrowth. The soldiers had still found them. Adam wondered sometimes if Dean's name hadn't been drawn to make an example of him for trying to thwart the Capitols plans.
If that was the case then Dean beat them at their own game but with a cost. Adam knew. He had to stand back on the road and shout before he went onto the land in front of Dean's house because Dean had laid down traps everywhere. He was watchful, almost overly cautious but Adam didn't begrudge him that.
"I'll catch them if they come to get me." He'd told Adam one night when he'd drunk enough to be talkative. "I'm never letting them take me again." Castiel had nodded and Adam sometimes wondered if they shouldn't have sent Castiel to be their tribute. He would have won. Castiel was cold, the only person he cared about was Dean. He could have killed every other tribute in the first day and not cared about the blood on his hands as long as he came home to Dean.
No, the Capitol had chosen well. It had broken both of their spirits.
"So, isn't this a nice day?" Meg Masters was saying, fingers running through the little white bits of paper that held the name of every boy and girl aged between fourteen and eighteen in District Three. "As you can see we're in our lovely Mechanical district, home of our previous Champion, Dean Winchester."
There was a polite smattering of applause. No one wanted this to go on longer than it had to.
"I asked Dean to say a few words but he's busy playing house now with Castiel." Meg rolled her eyes exaggeratedly for the television cameras and Adam balled his hands into fists. He could understand the impulse that would drive someone to kill. Meg raised that impulse in him. She'd never asked Dean, although they all knew Dean would refuse. She just wanted a chance to embarrass him.
"I'm sure you can remember how Dean took out his final opponent by snapping his neck with his bare hands? If not, we've got this clip for you!" Meg squealed and the big screens were suddenly flooded with the moment Dean had won the games. Adam kept his eyes on the floor but he heard the sound of the other boy's neck snapping and the horrible whimpering sound he made. He risked a look towards Dean and was surprised to find his brother staring up at the screen, refusing to look away. Dean had his hand pressed over his heart, a signal Adam didn't understand but he knew it meant something important because a moment later John was dragging Dean's hand down before the cameras could pan round to him.
"I wonder if this year's tribute will be able to live up to the standard Dean set, hmm?" Meg continued and the cameras swivelled back to her and her fingers poised over the bowl. Adam felt rather than heard the silence settle over them. It was a silence that threatened to consume them all, that overwhelmed. Even the birds didn't make a noise.
"Your new tribute is…" Meg's vibrant blue nails flashed as she scooped up the envelope, the one placed on the top of the pile. She ripped it open, smile growing wider as she read, "Adam Milligan."
For a moment there was nothing. The sound of his name faded away and Adam couldn't feel anything. His whole body was numb, his feet refused to move under him. It was his name that had been called. His name that had been in the envelope at the top of the pile.
His death warrant.
Then his mother's screaming cut through the silence. The world came rushing back in a sudden, vibrant swoop of sound. His father had his mother held tight around her waist as she screamed, fingers clawing the air as she tried to get to him. Dean had shoved two soldiers aside and was elbowing his way towards Adam.
"No!" he shouted. "No! I volunteer, I'll go again! No!"
"Dean Winchester," Meg's voice was clipped, unwilling to deal with any of this nonsense and Adam saw guns trained on them. "You are too old. You've already won your games. Give someone else a chance."
"I'm fine," Adam said sharply, his voice sounding too young suddenly, so small and alone in the crowd. "I want to do this. I'm fine."
Soldiers flanked him, keeping Dean away from him and Adam didn't look back, he couldn't look back. He walked up to the platform where Meg Master's took his hand and he stared out at the bright blue of the sky. He wouldn't get very many more chances to see it, he reasoned, so he would look at it now but he wouldn't look at his family. He wanted to remember them when they were happy, he didn't want this to be his last memory of them.
"Your tribute, ladies and gentleman, Adam Milligan!"
The ride to the Capitol wasn't anything like he'd expected. Adam had a handler. A demon he couldn't even remember the name of. He looked young, maybe in his early twenties. He was only there to make certain that Adam didn't run away and spoil the fun. Adam just watched re-runs of old games in his compartment rather than attempt to make conversation with the demon watching over him. He saw so many people die that by the end he was glad to arrive at the Capitol, glad to get away from the constant carnage. It didn't matter that he'd be thrown into it himself in a number of days. What mattered was he didn't have to keep watching it for the moment, that he had a little respite, at least.
It was a respite that was spent being pummelled and pulled about. His hair was trimmed, his skin was shaved, he was washed all over as if he was dirty and he hadn't just bathed at home and put on his best clothes. He was cleaned until he shone and then dressed up in the most ridiculous clothes meant to signify his district. They made machines. It was all they did. Everything the Capitol needed – its televisions, electric gadgets, explosives even, they all came from the skilled hands of the workers of District Three. This seemed to mean coating Adam's cheeks and shoulders with silver glitter and dressing him as if he was made of metal himself. His eyes were back rimmed then glazed with silver shadow, even his lips painted silver. The glimpses Adam caught looked nothing like himself. He looked like a metal man, not a boy who spent his time outside of the factories. Adam's mother was a medic. Adam wasn't going to go down the route that led to a life working in the factories, he wasn't going to become a mechanic although his father had the skill in it and Dean toiled all day fixing broken things. Adam wanted to help people. The person reflected back at him wasn't who Adam was inside, he wasn't who Adam was at home, he was a symbol.
"This will be the moment people really see you," his bored handler said. "At least try to make an effort."
The moment people had really seen him had been when he was chosen. He'd been dressed in his own clothes. He'd looked like himself, although smarter and washed up. This wasn't him, this was just what the demons wanted because they liked their games. They liked choosing a favorite, they liked making bets and giving support. It was all a pantomime but they liked it when their victims played along.
Adam swallowed down his pride, remembered that he wasn't the first person to look stupid and climbed aboard the chariot that would take him into the arena and give the demons the first up close look at the tribute from District Three. He knew he just had to stand there and look pretty but the moment the horses started up into a trot he grabbed the side of the chariot to steady himself. The light in the arena was blindingly bright and Adam blinked. It took him a moment till he could really see what was in front of him.
"The boy from District Three, Adam Milligan!" a voice shouted, speakers booming it out until all Adam could hear was his own name and the cheering that followed it. He half raised his hand, aware that that seemed to make the cheering louder and he felt his heart flip. Even though he couldn't see them there were demons here, watching him, evaluating him and his costume. He looked ahead of him, frightened about what he'd see if he looked out onto the demons when his eyes adjusted to the light.
He was following two chariots, he realized, the first containing the tribute from District One – a tall, dark haired boy with broad shoulders. Adam would have laughed at his costume, the imitation of a peacock in sparkling blue with feathers bloomed around his shoulders but he was too busy looking at his hands. They were big, strong hands. Hands that could strangle Adam with ease.
Behind him was the tribute from District Two. She stood up straight in her chariot and Adam caught glimpses of her face on the large screens as they rode past. She was beautiful, dark skinned with long black hair drawn up at the back of her head in a plat. She wore traditional armour and the way her hand lingered on the handle of her sword suggested to Adam that she already knew how to use it. They were both tanned, athletic and Adam would have guessed both of them were already trained for this. They came from districts that cared about the games, districts that saw it as an honor to be chosen for the games and not the horror it really was. Adam knew that next to the two of them, he was simply a scrawny kid.
He hardly even realised when his chariot stopped and he didn't bother to look over at the other tributes that came behind him. He already knew they would be better prepared than he was. He hardly even heard the speech that was being given, hardly even heard what was being said but he didn't care. There were demons everywhere and Adam wanted to squirm under their gaze. He looked up, trying to find something else to look at and found the tribute from District One watching him.
"It will be alright," the boy mouthed and Adam scowled at him.
Nothing would ever be alright again. He fixed his gaze on the podium ahead of him, on the game-makers and not his other fellow tributes. He didn't need to be distracted this early on.
Adam stared out of the window. He knew where he was. These had been Dean's rooms when he was preparing for the games. Adam had sat down with Castiel and watched every moment of the pre-games show. He'd wanted to see everything Dean did and Castiel had clutched his hand till Adam couldn't feel the blood in his fingers any more. Dean had talked about his family, about how much he loved his brothers and his father, how he wanted to go home to them and more than anyone he talked about Castiel. Sometimes Adam felt like he was intruding on a private moment. Even though Dean was talking to everyone in the nation when he stared into that camera, his words were meant only for Castiel.
This was the room where Dean had done his interviews and, any moment now, Adam was going to be invited to sit down and talk a little about himself too.
This would be his chance to make the public like him, to make them send him gifts - food, medicine, maybe even weapons. Dean and his tragic doomed love had gripped the imagination almost immediately. He'd been popular even if he didn't want to be. People had helped him.
Adam didn't have anything like that. He wanted to go home for his mom. He was all she had. If he died then she'd be alone.
The door to his room opened and Adam spun round into the face of a camera and a man with a charming smile. Everyone knew Anthony Crowley. He hosted the games, he was the on- the- ground man while Meg worked out in the districts. It had been rumored that Crowley had even invented the games as a way to amuse the populace of the Capitol. Adam believed that rumor. His stomach twisted. He didn't want to be caught off guard by this man. He needed to put across a good image of himself even if his insides felt like they were writhing, standing so close to a demon.
"Adam Milligan! District Three!" Crowley boomed and Adam nodded, dumbstruck. "I'm sure our viewers at home will want to know that you are our previous winner, Dean Winchester's half-brother! Tell us a little about your brother, Adam."
Your games destroyed him, Adam thought viciously but he knew that thought had to stay locked up.
"Dean is a very courageous big brother," he answered robotically. "I am very proud of him. He would have liked to come to the games again but now it's my turn." He tried to smile, tried to make it sound like this was some sort of family tradition he was competing in and as if he wanted to be there, testing his strength against the memory of his brother. He clenched his hands, knowing the camera was framed at his face only.
"Now, I'm sure everyone remembers Dean had that special someone he wanted to go home to. Is it the same for you, Adam? Is there some special boy or girl waiting at home for you?" Crowley asked eagerly.
"No," Adam said, flexing his fingers because his hand was starting to cramp since he'd had his fingers balled into a fist for so long. Demons set him on edge. They didn't smell right, they didn't talk right and they delighted in every second of Adam's discomfort. "There's just my mom and me. I want to go home for her."
Crowley looked disappointed. "Well, you heard it here folks. Adam Milligan, Dean Winchester's half-brother. Will he be as good as his big brother? Only time will tell!"
Adam bit his lip. It had been the wrong answer. They were shutting down the interview. He'd hoped desperately that he'd be able to get across something of himself, of who he was but they'd already decided how he was going to be presented. He was coming into the fight as Dean's successor. Adam didn't know why they didn't just paint a target on his back or would that have been too obvious?
The camera was shut off and Crowley sighed.
"Honestly, kid," he tutted, looking Adam over. "You're a pretty little slip, aren't you? Sixteen they said. How would you like to earn some sponsorship right now?" He eyed the couch behind them hungrily and Adam recoiled.
"What?" he asked, dumbfounded.
Crowley sighed. "I assume they do still have sex in whatever provincial backwater district you're from. You blow me, we do the interview again and you do it better," he said, eyes raking over Adam as if he wanted to rip the clothes from Adam's body and the flesh from his skin. "I'm offering you help here, Adam. Don't be stupid."
"No," Adam said, fixing his eyes forward blankly.
"Don't be stupid," Crowley hissed again. "Do you think your brother never did anyone any favors? Dean knew how to play the game and you should know too." He grabbed Adam by the arm, dragging him closer. "If you win this thing, Adam, a lot of people are going to want you. Let me help you, I'll teach you to enjoy it. If you're very good at it I might make you mine, as long as you don't lose your head. My taste doesn't run to corpses."
Adam didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to believe that Dean would do anything like that. He knew deep down in him that Dean would never have done anything like that if he had a choice but he also knew how badly Dean had wanted to come home. He'd been focused, single-minded and Dean could do terrible things if he thought he was doing them for the greater good. If he could kill then why couldn't he use his body too?
"Is the camera still on?" he asked Crowley softly and the demons features settled into a smile.
"No," he purred.
"Good," Adam said and brought his fist up quickly, slamming it into the demon's nose. "Now I said no, so leave me alone!"
Crowley stumbled back, blood streaming down his face. "That was a very stupid mistake," he hissed. "No one is going to care about you, Milligan, they'll be happy when you die and if by some fluke chance you do survive, I'll make sure your place is in my bed and that you never go home again." He spat the blood from his mouth at Adam's feet, stalking out of the room, his camera man following.
Adam waited till they were gone before he collapsed onto the sofa and buried his head in his hands.
He already knew he was as good as dead so he might as well go out with style. Dean had always known he was coming home so those sacrifice he'd made were small things, things he could live with because in the end he'd have his reward. Adam knew he was never leaving the arena alive. The best he could do was go in there with his conscience clean. He'd die knowing his mother would be proud of him.
Adam met the other tributes in training the next day. There were eleven others. Four girls and eight boys not counting himself. Adam tried to weigh the odds for each of them in his head but gave up after a little while when he was unable to calculate anyone who would have a worse chance then himself.
"So, you're Adam?" one of them asked. Adam thought he came from District Nine but he didn't really concentrate on learning their names or places. He was too busy trying to climb over the obstacle course to really focus on anyone.
"Yes," he grunted out, swinging his legs over the top of the wall and jumping down gracefully to the other side. He was running when the other tribute caught up with him.
"I heard you're Dean Winchester's brother," he said and Adam shot him a glance.
"Half-brother," he clarified and the other tribute looked pleased.
"You should be easier to kill then," he said and Adam felt his heart sink like a stone in his stomach.
He'd be lucky if he made it past the first day.
Their trainer, Alistair, seemed to revel in the promise of bloodshed. He congratulated them every time they hit the target, whispered the glories they'd feel after their first kill. Adam picked a javelin as his weapon. He liked the weight in his hands, liked the fact that he didn't have to get up close and personal to kill with it. He could throw it or jab it. Not like a sword or a knife that he'd have to drive straight into skin. He'd tried a bow and arrow but all his arrows had gone wide of the target. Alistair had watched him with interest. Adam knew the delicate points on a human body. He'd helped his mother patch up people who'd been hurt working. He'd seen men with nails though their hands, people who'd gouged themselves open on saws but those were accidents. They weren't intentional. Adam had never inflicted that damage.
He put those faces from his mind and stabbed the dummy in front of him cleanly through the neck. It was a fast death, much faster than a stomach wound. If he didn't land it right then whoever he hurt could linger for days, bleeding out slowly. They might even have the strength to finish him off before they succumbed themselves. Alistair watched him with a smile on his lips.
"You have a talent," he said and Adam shivered.
"I just want it over with quickly," He yanked his javelin back and almost looked for the blood to wipe away before he remembered it was just a training dummy.
Alistair smiled. It wasn't like any sort of smile Adam had ever seen before. It wasn't even really a smile, just a little smirk of his lips. It made Adam's blood run cold. He looked around the room, realizing slowly with a sinking feeling in his heart that the other tributes had all been called away by their handlers. It had happened so slowly, so quietly while Adam was training that he hadn't even noticed. He'd been working so hard and now it was only Alistair and him alone in the training room.
"I should go," he said quickly. "I'm sure my handler is looking for me."
"I doubt it." Alistair's lips quirked into that strange smile again. "He's not very interested in you, is he? But that tribute from District Twelve is another story."
Adam's brow furrowed as he tried to recall his fellow tribute and to work out when he and his handler would even have had time to meet but it seemed that the game-makers were good at arranging private time if they wanted it. He shuddered, wondering if that was what Alistair had arranged here.
"There are no cameras here," Alistair said as if he could read Adam's mind and Adam stumbled backwards, holding the javelin out in front of him.
"I punched Crowley and I won't hesitate to stab you with this!" he said, drawing on a bravado he didn't really feel. Alistair seemed unconcerned. He pushed the tip of the javelin aside and a moment later he was pressed against Adam. He smelled rotten, the way decomposing flesh did. Adam had cleaned enough gangrenous wounds to know that smell and it made him want to gag.
"Yes, I heard about Crowley." Alistair's lips curled back and he bent his head, mouthing at Adam's neck. "You could be my greatest tribute. Your brother was my protégé. I trained him and look how well he turned out. I could make you better still."
Adam felt sick. He didn't want to think about what Alistair was hinting at. He just wanted to get out of there. He wanted the demon's hot breath off his neck, wanted his hands off him, pulling at his clothes, wanted his teeth to stop biting into his unprotected skin. He struggled against him but the struggles just seemed to make Alistair more determined, slamming Adam back against the wall of the training room, ripping at his shirt.
"I am going to make you bleed," he whispered, almost tender in his tone and Adam felt bile rise in his throat.
He heard the footsteps and the door to the training room open. There was a sudden intake of breath and more footsteps and Adam thought that whoever had been there was leaving. They'd seen what had happened but they were just going to leave Adam to his fate. He shut his eyes tightly, feeling tears squeezing out from under his eyelashes and the last thing he wanted was to cry for Alistair. He knew the demon would like it, that it was what he wanted.
The footsteps kept coming closer and Adam opened his eyes again, staring straight into the wide green gaze of the tribute from District One.
"Excuse me," the boy said, his voice clear and strong and Alistair drew away from Adam, giving Adam just enough room to slip out of his grasp. "I wanted to use the training room."
"I'm finished," Adam said quickly. He touched his neck, felt the mark that Alistair had left and swallowed down the scream that had been threatening to build inside him since Alistair had cornered him.
"Let me walk you back to your room," the other tribute offered quickly and Adam nodded. The boy's hand went to the small of his back, steering him out of the room and Adam didn't know what to say. He looked up at the older boy's face but it was set, stony looking and Adam didn't think he wanted to talk. In truth Adam didn't want to talk either. He wanted to go home, he wanted to hide. He felt unclean. He could still smell Alistair on him and he knew that no matter how much he scrubbed at his skin, he'd still smell him till the mark he left on Adam's neck faded.
"Thank you," he muttered once they reached the door to his rooms and the other boy nodded.
"Don't let them get you on your own," he said gruffly and then he was gone, stalking away down the hallway and Adam darted into his rooms, locking the doors behind him. He wanted a shower but he didn't feel safe.
There was a message for him that night from his family. Crowley filmed as Adam watched it, fingers pressed to the screen when Castiel touched the lens at the other end, wishing he could feel the warmth of the other man's fingers. Castiel didn't speak, just touched the camera that was filming him and Adam knew what that meant, knew how important that was. His mother told him she loved him and that she'd always be proud of him. His father said the same. Sam wasn't there.
Dean stared straight on into the camera. "Run fast, Adam," he told him. "Run fast, don't trust anyone and kill them all. I know you're going to come back. I know you. You're stronger than you think you are. Don't listen to them." He raised his hand, covering his heart and the message cut off abruptly.
"Why don't you cry now?" Crowley sneered. "Everyone loves it when a pretty boy cries and if you don't cry in here then you'll cry out there."
Adam hung his head but he didn't cry. He wondered what Dean's salute meant and hoped it meant his brother had some kind of plan.
Training didn't last long enough and Adam didn't feel like he had learned anything of value. He was also informed he would be sent out without a pack. The others would have supplies but Adam had forfeited his by having the lowest score in training. Adam didn't even have to look at Crowley to know he was being punished for turning the man down. If Adam had slept with the demon, he would have had a pack, lowest scores or not. He was going into the wilderness without supplies, medicine or a weapon. Crowley had made people hate him just the way he'd promised he would.
The first sight of the arena was disorientating. The light was bright, real and artificial because everything they did needed to be filmed. They didn't know what they were going into. It could be any sort of terrain. Dean had ended up in an arctic wasteland, completely different from the dusty, arid land of their home but he had shown surprising skill there once he got to grips with the cold. He'd had sponsors. They had sent him warm clothes and supplies with which to light a fire. While other tributes were freezing to death, Dean had been winning.
It took Adam a few seconds after his eyes adjusted to realize that they were in the clearing of a wooded area. Obviously this year the game-makers were looking for those who could hunt and track as well as simply fight. There would be a number of places to hide and the game would become one of strategy as well as simple killing power. Adam stumbled forward, the grass feeling too soft under his feet after the metal of the training room and then he ran. He didn't think about anything else, just rushed for the cover of the trees, running fast like Dean had told him. Behind him he heard shouting, as others decided they were going to take their chance to kill before they were all hidden and dispersed but Adam wasn't stupid enough to stop running. He had no protection, nothing to fight with. He climbed onto a tree, getting as high as he could and watched the bloodshed from the safety of his hiding spot. At the end, four of his fellow tributes lay dead and the others had absconded into the tall grass and woods. Adam clung to the tree side, swallowing down his fear at the sight of the blood and the wide open gazing eyes. Four of them already dead but at least Adam hadn't been the first one.
Still, that didn't give him very much of an advantage. Out in the woods were seven people who wouldn't hesitate to kill him and one or two who had already tried out their skills. He suppressed a shiver and sat up in his tree, waiting for nightfall.
Under the cover of darkness he slipped out and collected the packs which had been left behind. Being a scavenger wasn't exactly the most glamorous of things but Adam knew better than to be wasteful. The others had obviously not considered the fact that at some point their supplies would run out or they might need what had been gifted to the other tributes. He found himself with bread, bottled water, a knife and bedding. It was not a lot. None of those who had been killed could have been well regarded either but they'd had more than Adam. He took their things, but closed their eyes and pressed his hand over his heart, honoring the fallen the way he had seen Dean do.
Kate reeled back from the television set.
"Oh Adam!" she gasped, tears filling her eyes. On the floor Castiel sat cross-legged and he copied the movement, his own hand going to cover his heart.
Adam moved through the forest, keeping his ears trained for any noise. He'd played out in the woods with his brothers as a child and he knew how to tell when they were coming because of the sounds they made. Adam had always been the lightest of the three. Sam stumbled through the undergrowth like a startled deer and Adam was suddenly grateful that sweet, fumbling Sam hadn't been chosen. While he didn't have Dean's faith in him he knew he was better suited to this than Sam was. Sam would never want this. Sam would rather die as some form of protest against the games than compete in them and risk having to kill innocent people. Adam heard that some people did kill themselves rather than compete but their deaths were edited for syndication. He was sure that Sam would have been one of those.
He didn't intend to sacrifice himself for entertainment. He didn't intend to kill either if he could help it. He knew that Dean was planning something. He need to stay alive for as long as he could, stay off the beaten track and let the others pick one another off. Let them all kill each other and Adam could survive from smarts alone. It probably wasn't allowed, they'd probably arrange some sort of accident for him or a reason why he couldn't avoid the other tributes but Adam was going to try for as long as he could.
Cover was what he really needed. He remembered Dean's cave when they were children and the traps around his house. If he could find something like that and if he could build those traps then Adam knew he'd be safe. He could sleep at least. He could build himself an earth wall and shield behind it, hidden deep in the cave and set down traps to catch anyone who had the same idea. There was a snap of twigs near him and Adam ducked instinctively, rolling into the undergrowth and he watched the other tribute stalk across his path, not two meters from where Adam had been a moment ago.
"I thought you said you saw the Milligan kid here," another voice said and Adam cowered lower to the ground, his stomach in the mud. A girl strode into view, tossing her black braid back over her shoulder, glaring at the male tribute who shrugged.
"I thought I did," he said.
The girl rolled her eyes. "You know what Crowley said. The one who kills the kid gets extra rations. I want those rations."
"Yes, Kali," the boy muttered softly. Adam wondered when they'd found time to form an alliance but he was more interested in the knowledge that Crowley had placed a bounty on his head with the other tributes. He'd known demons were underhanded but he hadn't realised they carried grudges quiet so strongly.
He wondered about his name, about that envelope Meg had picked. She hadn't even bothered to search for one. She'd known the name she was going to choose. Adam was supposed to be here, it was planned that he'd be here. His family had angered the demons and they wouldn't be happy until their blood had been spilled. Dean had survived so it had fallen to Adam.
He lay in the undergrowth until the two tributes passed and he was sure it was safe. He ventured further into the forest and followed a stream till he came to a rocky out crop. There was a cave and Adam slipped between the wet rocks and crawled inside. He lay still thinking about what he'd heard, his heart beat pounding in his ears.
"Did you hear that?" John thundered.
"I told you, Dad," Dean said, arms folded over his chest. "They want him dead. They wanted me dead. They're not even pretending to play fair with Adam."
John turned in his seat, his expression set. "Tell me about this plan of yours, Dean."
Adam woke up to the sound of a claxon call. Another of their number had died. He burrowed down deeper into the dirt and fidgeted with his stolen pack, drawing out some of the bread and nibbling on it. He would have to find some fresh food soon. The stuff from the packs would go dry and while Adam had eaten dry bread before he knew eventually the stuff made you sick.
He crawled out of his cave, splashing into the clear water of the stream. It was cool over his aching muscles and Adam kicked about in it – forgetting for a moment that he was hunted, forgetting everything but the soft joy of the water. He'd always loved water. It felt natural to him to swim; his father had taught him at a young age the same way he'd taught Dean and Sam. It was memory of home, of splashing about in mountain springs, racing his brothers back and forth as his father boasted about having the strongest sons in their district. Maybe that was why they'd been sent here, to test that boast.
Adam tuned in the water, the tribute from District Nine standing over him with a long, double-headed axe in hand and Adam splashed clumsily backwards in the water, all the power gone from his legs. He'd never been so terrified before. He'd been numb when his name had been chosen, knowing but not really feeling that he would end up here, that his life would always be in danger but now he couldn't escape that fact.
"I'm going to take your head off," the boy said calmly, wading down into the water and Adam gripped unsuccessfully for a rock. They slipped out of his fingers, too wet for him to get a proper grip and all the time the other tribute advanced towards him, swinging his axe, taking pleasure in what he was about to do.
There was a sound, the whistling of air and both of Adam and the tribute from District Nine looked down at the arrow embedded in his chest in surprise.
"I…I…" Adam started to say, wanting to explain that he hadn't done it but they both knew that. The boy dropped his axe, the weight of it carrying it down stream and his body slumped forward into the water.
Adam whipped his head around, looking up at his rescuer or maybe his future killer. There was still a price on his head after all; he was still hunted. The boy standing there was the oldest of the group that had been chosen and the one who had saved Adam in the training room, the boy from District One. He was nearly nineteen as Adam remembered, only a month off from the birthday that would have kept him safe and he had volunteered. Adam shivered. No one volunteered unless they wanted to kill or they had a terribly good reason.
Neither of those options were a good thing; neither were likely to keep Adam alive. He gripped a rock, his hand finding purchase this time and hurled it up at the other boy. It glanced off his chest and the boy recoiled.
"I saved your life, you could at least be grateful!" he snapped, rubbing the spot where the rock had hit.
"So you can kill me yourself no doubt! I know I'm worth fresh supplies," Adam spat back.
"I was not planning to kill you. I know about the bounty on you. I think it's repulsive," the boy said and Adam knew everything he'd ever thought about District One was true. They were stuck up, full of themselves snobs. Almost as bad as the demons.
"Can't you just say it's lousy like a normal person would," he complained. The boy smiled at him and Adam realized that underneath the dirt and the grime he was rather handsome. He offered Adam a hand to help him up and out of the water.
"Michael Milton," he said, fingers closing around Adam's hand. "I know who you are already. Everyone knows who you are."
"Michael Milton. Tribute for District One," the television set boomed, showing a picture of Michael's cocky, smiling face. "Michael Milton volunteered in the place of his younger brother, Lucifer Milton. Michael is eighteen years old. His hobbies include…"
"I was disgusted when I heard that you were being hunted like some prize," Michael said, helping Adam to drag the dead boy's body from the stream. They laid it on the bank, snapping free the arrow from his chest and closing his eyes. "He tried to kill you, why do you want to do this?"
"None of us deserved to be here," Adam argued. "He might have wanted me dead but he was given orders. We were all given orders. Kill or be killed. He still deserves to go home as himself and not a bloated, water logged corpse."
Michael nodded, fingers patting down the side of the boy's jacket, searching for supplies.
"His name was Virgil," he said absentmindedly, drawing out a small flick knife from an inside pocket of the boy's coat.
"I didn't know," Adam murmured.
"You didn't know his name but you're worried about his body." Michael sounded amused and Adam felt heat flare up in his cheeks.
"He has a family! They'll want to burry something that looked like their son," He hissed and Michael fell silent once again.
Adam stood up, pressing his hand over his heart and Michael watched him open mouthed.
"Do you know what you're doing?" he asked Adam who looked at him blankly.
"I'm honouring the dead," he said, confused by Michael's reaction.
"No, you're not!" Michael insisted. "That's a symbol of the rebellion. Who taught you that? Who showed you that sign?"
"I…I can't say," Adam said quickly, looking around them, suddenly afraid again. Everything was televised. Every movement he'd made, every time he'd given that signal he was sending a clear sign of rebellion. If he gave away Dean's name then the demons would know. It would be Dean they'd track down and torture, Dean they'd kill. His brother was a rebel. Adam swallowed down the knowledge and tried to look unconcerned. "But I don't care if it is a sign of rebellion. I believe in a world without the games and without the demons."
And he repeated the symbol, hoping that the cameras reporting at home would catch him.
In District Nine, he started a riot.
"What is he doing?" Dean asked, putting down his wrench.
"He's made an alliance with the boy from District One," Castiel said, turning to look at his husband. The grey and green screen flickered, showing pictures of another competitor and Castiel wasn't nearly as interested.
Dean growled softly, "I told him not to trust anyone."
"Eventually he'll have to kill him, Cas. If this doesn't work, if we don't get him home, then he'll have to kill him. I don't want Adam to go through that."
"This is where I've been sleeping." Michael said, pulling himself up into the tree and reaching a hand down to help pull Adam up onto the lower branches. "I've been able to see pretty much everything from up here."
"Yes, until someone notices you and sets fire to the tree," Adam said, wrinkling his nose. Michael looked slightly offended by that suggestion.
"I wasn't the one who almost had his head cut off back there," Michael reminded him.
Adam felt the tree branch beneath his hands, the bark was painful and he tried to imagine Michael sleeping up here in the night, keeping watch over the forest below him. "We can't both stay up here," he said softly. They could sit there together but there wasn't enough room for them both to sleep.
"I thought your idea with the cave was a good one. If you hadn't made so much noise splashing about you could have come and gone from there without anyone noticing for a while," Michael said, patting him on the shoulder and Adam wondered how the boy could insult him while attempting to compliment him. It really was a talent Michael had.
"Yeah, but it was small. We should find a bigger cave," he said, confused as to why he was planning this as if he and Michael would go on together. They were supposed to be enemies and Adam knew Michael could snap him to bits. He knew Michael's score as well. It was a perfect 10, compared to Adam's lowest possible score. Michael didn't need to saddle himself with a weakling.
"Why are you helping me?" he blurted out and Michael looked at him for a long moment without speaking. It was so long that Adam thought he wasn't going to answer but then Michael took a deep breath and looked away.
"I am the oldest of five children. I have three brothers and a sister. My family is wealthy, we live in a nice house and there's plenty of food but we're not safe from the games. My little brother Gabriel, he turned fourteen this year, he tried to run away. The soldiers caught him and broke his nose. He was still crying when they picked a name, blood was still streaming down his face and I couldn't go to him. Then they read out the name – it was my brother, Lucifer." Michael clenched his hands tightly, knuckles turning white. "I knew he couldn't come out here, it would've destroyed his humanity. He would've probably won but he wouldn't have come back my brother. So I volunteered. I came here, just thinking about how I would go back to them and then I saw you. You looked frightened but you were proud. You reminded me of my brother. You're his age. I knew I didn't want you hurt either and then when you refused Crowely…."
"You know about that?" Adam interrupted, his cheeks bright pink.
Michael nodded. "I heard him ranting and raving about it, about how he was going to break you. I just thought you were amazing, Adam. That was such a strong thing to do." He reached out, stroking his hand over Adam's cheek and Adam felt even more ashamed. He'd not done it because he was strong. He'd done it because the idea of having a demon's hands on him made him sick, made him worry his mother would think less of him and he'd damned himself because of it. Michael's hand went a little lower still, skirting over his jaw line and down to his neck, touching the nearly faded mark left by Alistair's teeth. "And I wanted to kill Alistair when I saw him hurting you."
"Did you…" Adam's voice wavered slightly. "Did you sleep with him?"
"With Meg," Michael answered back honestly. "It's how I got my bow."
Adam bit his lip, unable to think for a few seconds. His mind was blank but for the image of Michael with the demon, of her bright blue talons scratching on his otherwise perfect skin. He swallowed and finally pushed himself off the branch, landing gracefully on the ground.
"Come on," he called up to Michael. "We better go find a cave."
Dean didn't have to look far to find his brother. Sam was sitting in the tall grass outside the back of their house, where all the old junk was dumped. He was sitting on the hood of something that might once have been transport if it hadn't broken down. Dean slid down beside him.
"Adam's made a friend," he said and Sam answered him with a non-committal sound in the back of his throat. Dean sighed. "Will you please come in? You wouldn't send him a message. You won't watch him. What's your problem? Adam needs our support."
"It should have been me," Sam said, the words coming out in one breathless jumble so he said them again, slower this time. "It should have been me. I should be there in Adam's place. I should have volunteered. Adam's just a little kid but I didn't…I was numb. Dean, I didn't do anything and now Adam's going to die because of me."
Dean grabbed Sam's shoulders, gripping them hard enough to leave bruises.
"Adam is not going to die. Don't you dare say that again," he spat and Sam recoiled from him slightly. "If you'd volunteered, we'd still be in this mess but with you instead of Adam. Don't ever think I wanted this to turn out this way but I'd rather Adam was out there than you."
"Dean," Sam said, opening his mouth but no words followed that. Dean let him go, scooting away from Sam, his face frozen.
"I know," he muttered after a moment. "I know. It's awful. I can dress it up but I'd still choose you over Adam. But I can't, Sam, I can't leave him there. I won't leave him there. He's not going to die. I won't let him. I don't want to talk about what-ifs. Those don't matter. I am going to get Adam out."
Sam nodded slowly, reaching across the distance to wrap his arm around Dean's shoulders. They sat there in silence for a few minutes till Sam kicked the heap under them and muttered, "Someone was saying that they prostitute themselves, the tributes, to gain favours. Adam didn't. I…did you?"
Dean turned haunted eyes to his brother and nodded slowly. Sam sucked in his breath. "Does Cas know?"
"I have nightmares sometimes. Cas knows. I'm just glad that Cas and I…you know, we were pretty physical before it all happened. I'm glad we didn't wait."
Sam was quiet a little longer and then asked, "Who?"
"Alistair," Dean said, fixing his gaze at some far off point in the past, a shudder running through him. "I was pretty good with a knife by the end of the training, thanks to him. I just told myself it was okay but it wasn't. I'm glad Adam turned them down. He's strong, Sam."
"It didn't do him much good," Sam said bitterly.
"It's won him one admirer," Dean said, grinning slightly. "This Milton kid seems pretty solid. He's already saved Adam's life once. Only problem is he's a District One. He might revert to where he's from eventually but right now he's got Adam's back."
"You're much more up to date then I am," Sam muttered. "I can't stand to watch it."
"Cas is glued to it. He doesn't sleep anymore," Dean said, frowning again. "Come on, come inside and help me. You're no help to Adam sitting out here feeling sorry for yourself. Maybe you can convince Cas he needs to sleep a few hours."
"You are kidding, right?" Michael was laughing. It was a wonderful sound. "Your brother is my hero. I watched his games again to train for this. Do you remember when he set the avalanche and took out those Hellhounds Crowley sent after him? I'd be surprised if they've even got rid of all the traps he set."
"It's been four years," Adam countered. He felt better then he'd done in days. They'd found a cave together. It was hidden back in the rocky outcrop that bordered the arena and Adam had made it more habitable by dragging in their sleeping bags and finding soft, warm moss that he pulled up and bought in to create a bed. Michael had built the traps under Adam's guidance and supervision. They'd shared their packs – Michael had had chocolate in his, a gift from his brother Gabriel, and Adam had devoured it. Now they were running low and out on a hunting trip. Adam didn't know if anything lived in the arena. He thought there might be fish in the stream and there were birds in the trees but it was an artificial world. Not like the real woods where he'd hunted with his father.
"I don't know. He was clever. Always playing the Capitol at their own game," Michael said and Adam felt his heart flutter at Michael's smile. "So, did he marry that Cas when he got home?"
"Yes, he married Cas," Adam said, "They're pretty devoted to each other. It's sickening." He thought about Dean's careworn, tired face and the way in which Castiel had withdrawn almost completely from society, happy with a life as Dean's shadow, never letting the man too far from his sight. He didn't want Michael to know what had happened, he didn't want anyone to know.
"Good," Michael said, his hand going to Adam's arm to steady him as they passed over rocky ground. "I always worried the game-makers were playing up their epic love story."
"No, it's disgustingly epic. Dean really loves him and Cas pretty much worships the ground Dean walks on since the first day they met. Everything you saw was true." All the tears, the times Dean thought he was alone, when he forgot about the cameras and he just talked to Cas as if Cas was there with him. Castiel sneaking in to his mother's house, the bottle missing from her medicine bag that Castiel kept with him at all times in case Dean didn't come back. Adam didn't want Michael to know how much their devotion meant.
It was one thing to live for a person, another thing completely to die for them.
The claxon sounded high above them, breaking Adam out of his thoughts. It was the signal of another tribute's death and Adam closed his eyes. Michael put his arms around him and the two of them stood in the silence of the forest, breathing in being alive.
"I wonder who died," Adam said, opening his eyes again.
"It's not important," Michael said, the warmth of his arms gone in an instant and Adam craved them again. "Come on. We need to get food, don't we?"
Adam trailed after him, all the fun and laughter from a moment ago gone and replaced by a tense silence. Adam didn't know why Michael wouldn't talk about the other tributes, wouldn't discuss them or their deaths. Adam might not have bothered to learn their names but he did care that they'd died. They came out of the trees into a wide, open field and Adam felt the eyes on him. He didn't know if it was the pan of the cameras or someone watching him.
There was a body in the field, surrounded by fresh growing flowers. It was lying face down, not moving and Adam realized with a sickening feeling that it was the boy he'd seen with Kali, the tribute from District Two. He wondered if she'd been the one to kill him. He was probably the reason for the claxon sounding.
"That's Jeffrey," Michael said emotionlessly. "The tribute from District Twelve." He reached out, grabbing Adam by the elbow. "Come on, Adam."
"No." Adam shook off Michael's hold on him. "He might not be dead, he might be wounded." It sounded false even to his own ears. "Or he might have food in his pack." He ran across the grass, coming closer to the body and as he reached it he realized the boy was still breathing. There was a lot of blood. More blood then Adam thought someone could lose and survive but he knelt at the boy's side.
"Can you hear me?" he asked softly, laying a hand on his shoulder. "It's Adam. I want to help you."
He didn't even see the knife. One moment he'd been bent over Jeffrey and the next he was flat on his back and Jeffrey was kneeling over him, blood dripping down him – fresh, horrible and Adam realized he must have killed another tribute with his rouse, that it was their blood Adam had seen and then Jeffrey had hidden the body and tried the trick again.
"ADAM!" Michael's voice was frantic but Adam couldn't see him. He knew Michael couldn't take aim, not this close. He'd risk hitting Adam with the same blow. Jeffrey's knife was at his throat, the boy's eyes manic.
"I kill you, I kill your friend, and I can go back," he spat and Adam turned his face away.
"We all want to go back, Jeffrey. Just think about this. You don't have to kill me," Adam whispered, knowing how false that sounded because of course Jeffrey did. It was kill or be killed.
"Yes I do," Jeffrey gasped. "I need to win this. Don't you understand? I need to go back to him."
"Him?" Adam wondered if he could keep the other boy talking would Michael find a way to rescue him? It was better to just keep him talking, Jeffrey wanted to talk. Adam could see it in his face when he looked at him but he couldn't look too long. The boy's knife twitched against his neck.
"My demon," Jeffrey purred the words. "He was your handler but he wanted me. I was the special one. I've never felt more alive than when he was in me. He told me I was going to be a star and I am. I've killed so many for him. Not Kali, she got away, but so many. When you're dead then I can go back to the Capitol and we can be together. He promised me that. He promised me."
Adam stared at him. Jeffrey's face was almost blissful as he remembered and Adam swallowed hard.
"So you see, you have to die." Jeffrey sounded so reasonable and Adam could see the logic. It had been Dean's logic too. Everyone else had to die so he could go home, so he could go back to Castiel. It was another love story, a twisted love story because Adam didn't believe that the demon would care about Jeffrey once he was the winner. He didn't believe anything the demons said. Jeffrey might be in love – manic, horrible, all-encompassing love, but it wasn't what the demon probably felt. They couldn't feel love.
Adam wanted to tell him that but then Jeffrey's weight was lifted off him, Michael propelling himself into the other boy and the wrestled together as Adam forced himself up. He grabbed for Jeffrey's pack, for anything in it and found two other knives. He grabbed the biggest and then turned sharply, hearing a cry.
He took in the sight so quickly that his body had reacted before he really knew what he was looking at. Michael was on the ground, Jeffrey's knife in his leg and the boy was twisting it, wringing shouts of agony from Michael. If he hit an artery Michael would bleed out and there would be nothing Adam could do for him. Michael would die here, in the games, when he should have died in his bed an old man and Adam wouldn't let that happen.
It was quick, it was professional. Jeffrey wasn't even paying attention to him any longer. Adam grabbed a fistful of his hair, yanked his head back and slit his throat. Blood pooled out over the handle of the knife, over his hands and Jeffrey gagged for breath, choking on his own blood. He collapsed, convulsing and Michael drew the knife out of his own leg, throwing it away. The cut was deep but it was straight from what Adam could see.
Jeffrey's twitching stopped, slowly, occasional spasms still running though his body and then the claxon sounded. Adam looked down at his hands and dropped the knife.
"Michael…" He whispered and then he was in Michael's arms, cradling the older boy to him, worrying over the cut in his leg and Michael was holding him, rocking him back and forth as Adam cried. "I didn't want to kill him. I didn't, Michael. I just…he was hurting you!"
"I know. I know," Michael whispered and he tilted Adam's head up, wiping away the tears. "You need to help me. We need to get back to the cave. I'm not in a state to protect you like this."
"I can protect myself," Adam said but he was the one who'd led them into the trap. He knew how stupid he was. He didn't need Michael and his knowing looks. "I can look after your leg." Jeffrey's pack was full of things he'd taken off the other tributes that he killed and there were bandages at the bottom. Adam picked some flowers growing nearby, pretty smelling things but they would ward off an infection and squeezed their juice onto the bandages. He ran to the edge of the clearing and snapped a branch from a low hanging tree to make a support for Michael's leg. Kneeling at Michael's side, Adam wrapped his leg up tightly. Michael didn't question anything he did, not even the flowers and Adam wondered if Michael knew of their healing properties or if he simply trusted Adam.
"We should get going," Michael said again, trying to push himself up. Adam shook his head.
"No, not yet," he said quietly. He collected the things from Jeffrey's body that they might need, stuffing them into the boy's pack which he passed to Michael. Adam already knew there was no point in wasting anything. That just left Jeffrey's body. He looked peaceful, young, if you ignored the bright red gash where Adam had cut him open. Adam knew it was wasteful but he tore some more of the bandages and wrapped them round his neck, hiding the sight and closed Jeffrey's eyes.
He gathered up the flowers, picking the brightest blooms which were useless for healing but beautiful all the same and scattered them on his body and around his head. He looked almost like a prince from a fairy tale, awaiting a kiss to wake him up and not like a body growing colder every second.
Adam turned, certain now that they eyes he felt were cameras and he looked directly up into the trees. He knew his handler would be watching. He might even have made a bet on the outcome. Adam didn't have to hope his message would reach him, it was a guaranteed certainty.
"He died because he thought you loved him. If you feel any compassion at all, then his death should haunt you till the day you die." He closed his hand over his heart and stood there for a moment, letting his message sink in before he turned away again.
Michael was more important now. Michael was living and Adam was determined that he stay that way. He looped his arm under Michael's and helped him up. Michael was a lot heavier than he was and their way back was harder, a lot harder. Adam knew it was his fault Michael had been hurt and he was determined that it would not happen again. They were both going to get out of the games. He didn't know how yet but he'd find a way. He was not going to let Michael die here.
It didn't wash away the blood on his hands from the life he'd taken but saving Michael was worth it. Adam lay in his arms at night, feeling the reassuring huff of Michael's breath on the back of his neck and he knew if given the choice he would always choose Michael. He had cried in the arena, just as Crowley told him he would but Adam was past caring about the games and what anyone thought.
He had a goal now, more precious than simply staying alive. He was going to win and he was going to make sure Michael won with him.
The next morning he awoke to find gifts outside their cave, left in the night, given by sponsors. There was medicine for Michael's leg, fresh soup for the two of them and bottles of water. Adam stared at it all, unsure why they were sent but he gathered everything up and took it back into the cave.
"And this year's Games are really starting to heat up," the television set said, pictures of Adam and Michael entwined in sleep broadcast over the airwaves. "It seems we have a love story brewing between our tributes. Star-crossed lovers Adam Milligan from District Three and Michael Milton from District One, whose alliance seems to have taken on a romantic overture as of yesterday, have become hot favorites here in the Capitol. Of course, there can only be one winner."
"Just a little bit more." Adam wasn't used to having to plead with someone to eat. Michael turned his head away again and Adam set down the cup of soup, still warm, which he had thought would be a treat for Michael and felt his forehead. The other boy was burning up.
"Lie back, Michael. I just want to take a look at your leg," he instructed but Michael was already pliable. He lay back against the moss that Adam had gathered to make their bed, his breathing shallow and Adam swallowed hard as he unwrapped the bandage from around Michael's leg. The smell of infected flesh hit him hard and he wanted to wretch but stopped himself.
The wound looked horrible and Adam realised too late that Jeffrey might have tipped his knife with something in case whoever he attacked got away from him. He said he'd been after Kali and she got away, so maybe he'd learned from that mistake. Adam should have washed the wound before wrapping it. He should have been more careful but all he'd thought about was getting Michael back to the safety of the cave and stopping the blood loss. He hadn't thought about what else might happen.
"I need to…I've got to clean this," he said, hunting around for one of the bottles of water and opened it, hoping Michael wouldn't really feel what he was about to do. It was selfish but Adam didn't want to see him in pain. He poured the cool, clean water over the infected area and Michael cried out. Adam covered his mouth with a hand, suddenly nervous that Michael's cries would lead someone to them and Michael was too weak to defend them. It would fall to Adam and Adam had already proven he couldn't be trusted to protect himself, let alone another person. He emptied the bottle over Michael's leg, making sure he had washed the infection thoroughly.
The wound still looked ugly and Adam could only be thankful that he and Michael had done something that had made the Capitol like them because without the lotions and painkillers he'd been sent, he didn't know how else he would have treated Michael's wound. He knew some things he could do but the idea of cutting out the diseased flesh or indeed burning it off didn't make him feel particularly good and he didn't want to be responsible for killing Michael with his botched attempt at medicine. He'd seen his mother do it, helped her even but only as her apprentice. He'd never tried to do that on his own.
He picked up the painkilling gel first, making sure to clean his hands with the cool water from another bottle and then rubbed it along the cut. Michael whimpered softly but he kept still and Adam was thankful for that. He didn't think he could hold Michael down and apply the gel. He waited a few seconds, letting it sink in and Michael brightened a little once the pain wasn't so apparent.
"Adam," he murmured, reaching out to brush his fingertips over Adam's cheek and Adam smiled at him.
"I'm here," he whispered. "Your cut is infected. I'm just trying to patch you up, okay?"
"Yes." Michael's voice was heavy, his breathing sounded difficult. "I won't die, Adam. I won't leave you here."
Adam swallowed, reaching for another jar, this one, a gel with healing properties, which should speed up Michael's recovery. At the very least it should close the wound. Adam knew how expensive this stuff was; his mother had never been able to afford it. She had to make do with advising bed rest and using old remedies. She always said that it was a miracle cure and Adam just hoped she was right. He unscrewed the lid and coated his fingers thoroughly. He didn't care if he was being wasteful oe if he might need it later. He just wanted to make sure Michael lived. He rubbed the gel over Michael's leg and this time Michael didn't make a sound. He watched Adam, smiled at him but he didn't make any more pained noises and Adam was pleased about that.
"There," he said, sitting back. "You rest and you should feel better. I'll make sure you do."
If this didn't work, Adam would go out there and beg the Capitol for help. He'd cry as much as Crowley wanted. He'd make whatever deals had to be made to get Michael the medicine he needed. Michael watched him thoughtfully and then grasped Adam's wrist, pulling the boy down against his chest. Adam struggled for a moment, surprised at how much strength Michael still had in him till Michael shushed him.
"Be gentle," Michael reprimanded him and Adam stopped his struggles.
"You should be resting," he said, angry at Michael for disregarding his advice so quickly.
"I will rest," Michael agreed. "I just couldn't fall asleep without you in my arms."
Adam felt his cheeks flushing pink and he looked away. "You're still feeling ill," he muttered.
"No, I feel a good deal better," Michael told him, turning Adam's face towards his own so Adam could see that his eyes were clear, that his brow wasn't peppered with a fevered sweat the way it had been before. The miracle cure from the Capitol was better than he'd even dared hope it would be. "I want you to stay here, Adam. I want to hold you."
"You are holding me," Adam complained softly, squirming in Michael's arms again. He wasn't used to this sort of attention. At home he was the younger brother of Dean Winchester. People either thought his family was tainted or they knew well enough to stay away because Dean was a little unhinged and he might not take too well to someone sniffing around his baby brother. Adam's life had been about his family and their survival. He hadn't had time for romance and he shouldn't be making time for it now, in an arena where his every move was watched and he was expected to kill his fellow tributes.
Michael didn't seem to feel the same way however. He closed the gap between them, all that there was which wasn't very much Adam had to admit, and then his mouth closed over Adam's and stole his breath away. It was Adam's first kiss and his head spun. It was like electricity, flying and laying in the safety of his own bed all at the same time. Adam didn't have words for it, couldn't have begun to describe it but his heart was doing back flips in his chest and he moved to kiss Michael back, wanting to take as much from the other boy as Michael was taking from him.
"Adam is kissing the boy from District One," Castiel announced.
Dean looked up from cleaning his gun. "Is he?" He peered at the TV. "Yeah, he is. Cas, get up here and grab a gun. Remember, you shoot the soldiers, not me or Sam."
Castiel rose dutifully, moving to Dean's side to pick up one of the confiscated weapons Dean had managed to get his hands on. They were brought to the district to be burned, destroyed and melted down in their great furnaces but Dean had connections on the black market to get him what he needed.
"Are you certain it is time, Dean?" he asked, holding the gun gingerly in his hands. He did not like the weight of it, did not want to hold it but some things were necessary.
"Yeah, I'm sure. He's in the final four now, Cas. Things are going to get worse. We need to strike and we need to do it soon. I'm not bringing Adam home to bury him. I want my brother out of there alive."
"And his friend?" Castiel asked, tilting his head to one side.
"Anyone, who's still alive when we break in there, is going free, Cas. He can go home."
Castiel nodded, preferring not to voice the opinion that perhaps Michael Milton would not want to go home. Castiel knew if he had met Dean in the arena instead of the school yard then he would have followed the other man to the ends of the game and given his life to him willingly. If Adam had half the spark in him that Dean did, and Castiel did not doubt that, then Michael would not be willing to simply go his separate way once they were freed.
If they were freed.
It was a risk they were taking. Castiel reached in to his pocket, fingers closing around the vial he had taken from Kate Milligan all those years ago. If he and Dean were captured he would not let them be separated. They would die fighting and they would die together. Castiel would ensure of that.
The rebellion started in District Three but it spread to District Four and then on to Districts Six and Seven. There was a momentum, a fire to carry it on and Dean was good at talking, at reminding people of the children they had lost and the one's who'd come back as shells of their former selves. There were districts loyal to the Capitol, District Two, for example, which held out but more and more flocked to the banner of the rebellion.
The revolution when it came was televised.
Everyone knew the signal of the resistance. The hand over the heart, the memory of those who had been lost and would never be forgotten. They had seen Adam Milligan make that signal on the big screens which had been erected in every township to show the games in their full.
People knew who they were fighting for and what they were fighting to end.
They were fighting to bring their children home and the demons in the Capitol hardly stood a chance.
When they swept into the citadel it was Dean who made sure to take down the game makers personally. Castiel though was the one who killed Alistair. Dean had taken one look at the demon and he'd frozen, unable to move, to do anything. Alistair had taunted him, mocked him till Castiel had silenced him. Castiel was as cold and ruthless as any who had seen death while Dean was the more forgiving of the two. He let the lower demons live, let them scuttle away to repent and live in their broken world where they weren't the rulers any longer. Castiel showed no such mercy.
It took two days to break into the control room. Two days in which Dean feared his little brother might be dead and then when they broke in Dean didn't bother to listen to Crowley's explanation. He put a bullet through the demon's brain and passed the systems over to Sam.
"Deactivate everything," he muttered, surveying the screens which told him three of the tributes had survived the last few days. Michael Milton, Adam Milligan and Kali Uttam. And they were still out there, without contact from the outside world, still playing the games as the cameras rolled on, unaware that the fight had stopped. "Sam, I mean it. Shut it all down. We need to get in there."
Sam's fingers moved fast over the keyboard, bringing up protocols, closing down force fields and traps. One by one he deactivated every live feed until the only ones with access to what was going on in the arena were the rebels themselves.
"It should be safe now," he said.
"Can we get a message to them?" Dean asked, watching the screens with a worried expression. The girl, Kali, looked to be in a bad way. On another screen Michael and Adam slept on, wrapped up in each other and immune to the outside world.
"No, Crowley cut the lines of communication before we got in here. I can patch them up but you'd better get in there, Dean. That girl is going to die if she doesn't get help."
"She'll try to take them out before then," Castiel said, so silent before that Dean had almost forgotten he was there but he should have known Castiel would never leave his side. "I've been watching her. She is ruthless."
"We should hurry then," Dean said, not wanting to let a second mean the difference between Adam's life and death.
Adam woke up to the sound of a scream.
He scrambled out of Michael's arms, ignoring his attempts to pull him back and ran to the mouth of their cave. Michael might be content to sleep on but Adam knew something was wrong. He peered out into the near darkness of the surrounding woods and spotted the trap which had been sprung. It had obviously hit its mark because there was blood on the sharpened wooden point but there was no body. He cautiously stepped out into the clearing, wondering if he could follow the trail of blood and find out what had been hit when strong arms came up around him, one grabbing him around the middle and the other around his neck.
"Don't scream," a voice hissed in his ear and Adam half turned his head, catching a glimpse of dark skin and dark hair. Kali. "If you scream, I'll snap you neck," she whispered.
"What's stopping you?" Adam grunted. He knew he was playing with fire but something told him no matter how strong Kali seemed now, she didn't have the strength to kill him. If she did then she would have done it already. He could feel something wet and hot seeping into the back of his shirt and guessed that it was her blood. The trap had got her in the stomach, she was bleeding out and she was trying to bargain.
"I need the medicine you've got," Kali hissed. "Go and get it or I'll kill your lover."
"Michael," Kali said calmly but Adam could feel her grip on him loosening and he knew she didn't have any intention on carrying her threat through. She had just rightly assessed that he was the weakest of the two of them and was trying to play on his fears. He should just let her bleed to death and then it would be Michael and him left. They could live in the arena together, defend each other, until eventually the Capitol would have to let them both leave because Adam would never raise a hand against Michael and he knew Michael would never hurt him.
Kali pulled him round roughly to face Michael. Michael was limping, leaning against the wall of their cave to support himself and Adam closed his eyes quickly. He'd been too late with the medicine. Even with everything it could do, Adam had still applied it too late. Michael would probably always be in pain, would always need support to walk properly. He should have realized sooner and cleaned the wound straight away. He opened his eyes again, looking up at Michael's determined face.
"I just want the medicine," Kali said, her hold on Adam retightening but Adam could feel how she was leaning against him for support. "Give it to me and I'll get Adam go. Or did you fake everything you felt for him to get the gifts? Very clever if you did. I can't say I would have lowered myself but I hear you slept with Meg so obviously you don't really have standards."
"I love Adam," Michael growled and Adam felt his heart skip a beat. "Nothing I've done has been fake. The first time I saw him I knew I wanted him and I won't let you hurt him." He moved forward unsteadily and Adam held out his hands to stop him.
"No, Michael. No! She's sick!" He cried out. Kali's hands slipped from around his neck and he heard the sound of her collapsing onto the ground behind him, the dull thud as her body hit the ground. He turned quickly, rolling her over and checking her wounds. There was a cut on her cheek that was still open and Adam touched it, wondering if this was the wound that Jeffrey had given her, the attack she'd escaped from. There was a sticky patch of blood spreading through her shirt from where their trap had struck and she was covered in scrapes and bruises all over. "Michael, we need to help her. She'll die!"
"Let her," Michael scoffed, limping over to them. Adam shot him a cold look.
"I told you, we have to help her. I'm not going to let her die, Michael. She didn't want to hurt us, she just wanted to survive." He cradled Kali in his lap, feeling her pulse, which was ragged and uneven and her breathing grew shallow. "Michael…"
Michael sighed. "Fine. Fine," he muttered, turning away but his hand brushed through Adam's hair. "You know she was lying, don't you, Adam? Everything I've done is because I care about you."
Adam remembered the moment when he'd first laid eyes on Michael, when they'd been presented in their tribute outfits and Michael had told him that everything would be fine. He had kept that promise, he had done everything he could to protect Adam. He had never been untrue.
"I know," Adam answered, "and I love you too. But please, Michael, I can't let her die."
Michael disappeared and Adam pressed his hand over the wound in Kali's stomach. It hadn't hit any internal organs, he was pretty sure. If it had got her that deep he doubted Kali would have been able to move, let alone have the strength to pull the stake from herself and stumble on. The blood flow was heavy and Adam couldn't stand the idea of just letting her die here. Kali might have tried to kill him but that didn't make her evil. It just made her another pawn in the Capitol's game. She'd gone after him because of the offer of extra rations, not because she wanted his head the way the tribute from District Nine had. She was just a young woman starting out her life. She didn't deserve to have it end like this.
Adam was so intent on stopping the blood flow, on checking Kali's breathing that he didn't even realize Michael was back until he touched his shoulder gently, slowly settling on the ground at Adam's side, mindful of his own wound. "Here," he said and Adam smiled at him.
"Right." He grabbed the miracle cream, suddenly wishing he had been a little more sparing with it before but Michael's leg was still not completely healed even with everything he had used. Adam unscrewed the lid, coating his fingers and probed the wound on Kali's stomach as gently as he could. The girl in his arms squirmed away from his touch, her eyes opening wide and Adam shushed her. "I'm trying to help. I need to get this on you. I'll stop the pain in a moment, I promise."
His fingers were coated in blood now but he dipped them back in the jar, scraping his fingers around the sides to collect the last of the gel and he brushed it over the scar on her cheek. If she'd been bleeding continuously then she was likely to be light-headed. He needed to do everything he could for her.
"Let me do the rest," Michael whispered, brushing his hands away. "You just keep her still." He had the painkilling gel in his hands and he soothed it over Kali's cheek and then over her stomach. Adam smoothed her hair away from her forehead and whispered to her as Michael used the last of their bandages to wrap her wound. Kali slipped in and out of consciousness and Adam didn't know if the blood loss would prove too much. He only had the most rudimentary of his mother's training. He might have just wasted their supplies on saving someone who had already been lost but he couldn't stand by and do nothing.
"She'll be okay," Michael said, stroking his thumb over Adam's cheek and Adam wondered if Michael could read his mind or if it had just been obvious what he was thinking.
"We need to move her," he muttered, getting his arms up under Kali's shoulders and she made an unhappy noise that told him for the moment at least she was still with them. "She can't stay out here. We need to get her into the cave."
Michael nodded, grabbing hold of her legs and slowly, carefully and mindful of Michael's own injury they moved Kali into the safety of their cave. Adam laid her down on the soft bed of moss and covered her with his sleeping bag. Michael leant against the wall of the cave and watched him fuss, a soft smile on his face.
"You really are too good for this, Adam Milligan," He said and Adam glanced at him over his shoulder.
In that moment he knew that he really did love Michael.
"Are you certain this is going to work, Dean?" John sounded uncertain. Dean smiled at his father.
"Yes, Dad. I'm sure it will work. I managed to trigger an avalanche once with just some small explosives, I think I can break down a wall," he said. John regarded him with an uncertain look and then turned back to the modified tank Dean had spent the night working on.
"I should be the one to test it," he said. Dean slapped him gently on the back. John had been unable to stand up for his children before. He had a chance now to do something to help Adam and Dean wouldn't begrudge his father that.
"Okay, but I'm going in there first. I've been there before. I know the games, I know what they're like."
"And I'm coming with you," Kate said, holding her hand up to quieten Dean's protests. "That boy, Adam is with is sick and the girl, Kali. You need someone with medical training, Dean. Adam's done his best but I'm a professional."
"Fine. Cas and I are going in first. Dad, you cover Kate, and Sam, you bring up the rear, okay? We should have all the traps turned off but Crowley was a sneaky bastard and I don't trust that he didn't add some fail-safes into the program," Dean muttered. They were closer now than he'd dared imagine they'd get to rescuing Adam but they were still a long way off.
Kali opened her eyes and for a moment she didn't feel anything. Then she became aware of a numbness were there should have been pain. She ran a hand gingerly down her front, felt the bandages wrapped around her abdomen and then raised her fingers to touch her cheek. The cut there was almost completely healed. She sighed softly and turned her head to look around her. She was warm, resting on something soft and alive. The last thing she remembered was threatening to snap Adam Milligan's neck and then she'd given in to the dizzy feeling that had plagued her since she had awoken to find Jeffrey seated on her chest, dragging his knife slowly through her cheek. She'd fought him off and she'd run for cover but nothing she'd done had helped to close up the wound.
Milligan had been gifted medical supplies. She'd spied on the two of them, followed them when they went out hunting, saw them kill Jeffrey. She knew that as long as the Milton boy was keeping watch, she'd never be able to take the supplies from him and she was in no fit state to attempt it. She'd never have expected that they would share their supplies with her. If Kali had been in their shoes, she would have let both boys bleed to death rather than risk them becoming a threat to her later.
Now she was indebted to them with her life.
Kali looked across at the two of them, huddled in the corner together, sharing a sleeping bag for warmth. Adam was asleep, obliviously unaware of the danger that Kali posed him, his face pressed into Michael's chest. Michael was not asleep though. He watched Kali now through half-closed eyes and she thought she saw his fingers move. He had a knife or some other weapon, Kali realized. If she moved against them, Michael would kill her.
"I suppose you're waiting for me to say thank you," she said stiffly, pushing herself up.
"I'm waiting for you to say sorry," Michael snarled and Adam whimpered, pressing his face a little more tightly into the folds of Michael's shirt, fingers clutching at him. "You're lucky, you know. Adam saved your life. I would have let you die."
"He's weak," Kali retorted.
"He's strong," Michael countered. "He showed you mercy when he didn't have to, when the odds were against you. That's the sign of true strength. I would have been the coward who walked away and left you to your fate."
Kali fell silent at that. She didn't know what to say to Michael's idea of strength. She had been trained for this. She had been trained since a little girl to one day offer herself as a tribute for her district. It was an honor to fight in the games and it should have been her honor to either win them or die in glory. A compromise had never been something suggested to her.
"I don't know how to be merciful," she said, her head bowed slightly. Honor meant something to Kali, it was what her life had been built on. A debt of blood, of life, wasn't something she could turn her back on.
Michael smiled softly. "Adam can teach you," he said, running his hand down the sleeping boy's back. "He has taught me."
Kali hesitated a moment before looking back up at him. "I think I would like that," she said quietly. There was no honor to be gained in shedding the blood of the last two tributes. They were all that was left and they had given her shelter and protection when she didn't deserve it. Kali would have to learn compromise even if it was an alien idea to her. She could not say that it was something disgusting though. She was tired of death and killing.
She turned away from Michael, settling back down into the soft moss and pulled the sleeping bag a little higher, settling into a restful and dreamless sleep.
"No, look," Kali sighed, reaching round Adam's middle to help him hold the spear more firmly. "Look at the water, not at Michael. You need to jab," She moved his arm forcefully, the spear tip breaking the surface of the water and skewering a fish. "That's what you want to catch. Our dinner."
Michael laughed from the riverbank, toes trailing in the water as Adam fumbled with the fish.
"You'd think he'd never hunted, wouldn't you?" he laughed and Kali nodded.
"I do not need you both ganging up on me," Adam complained. "I have hunted and neither of you two can cook so if you don't want to eat this fish raw then you'll be nice to me." He gave Kali a gentle shove, still mindful of her healing wounds and struggled to the bank to kiss Michael.
Kali waded to the bank after him, still carrying the spear with their dinner at the end of it. She made a disgusted noise at the sight of their kissing. "Where I come from, it wouldn't be allowed," she muttered, sinking down next to Michael.
"District Two is backwards," Adam murmured, tilting Michael's head up to kiss him again, for longer this time. He half opened his eyes, catching Kali's blush and smiled into the kiss. Michael's arms wrapped around his waist, hoisting him into his lap and Adam laughed properly, breaking away from him and tried not to fall straight back into the water. Michael's hold on him tightened and Adam knew he was safe. It was strange to think that now he considered the arena somewhere he was happy. It was not home. It could never be home and Adam still wanted to leave but he was content with Michael and Kali.
They hadn't heard anything from the game-makers. Adam would have thought they'd do something to attempt to turn them against each other. They'd send Hellhounds, offer a bounty or do something but there'd been no word. He hoped it stayed that way. He liked Kali. When she wasn't trying to kill him, she was resourceful and smart. She was a good hunter as well, in a way Michael's injury prevented him from being. She staked out the river, taught Adam how to catch fish and Michael used his bow and arrow to spear down birds in the trees. Adam told them what was good to eat and what was poisonous and they made do.
Kali still hated to see the displays of affection between him and Michael. In her district, as she reminded them loudly and often, what they were doing wouldn't be allowed. Adam remembered the response from District Two when Dean was announced the winner, the supposed shame when videos from home proved Cas was a boy and not a girl. Dean had been supposed to go on a visit to the districts, parade himself as their winner but he'd never gone to District Two. He'd got as far as the next district over and then turned around and come home, shaking off the demons and their plans for him. Adam knew he would never have been accepted as the winner of his games in District Two because of Castiel and their relationship. Not everyone was so cold though. Kali was not as cold as she pretended to be. Occasionally Adam saw her watching them fondly and he wondered if Kali really knew what she felt or thought or if everything she believed had been drummed into her in training for the moment she would serve her district.
"Come on," he said, pausing for a moment to kiss Michael again, savoring the way his mouth tasted. "We should head back and I'll cook that fish for you."
The water splashed around his legs as he slid off Michael's lap. Michael got to his feet gingerly, leaning against Adam and Adam was grateful that Kali was able to support herself with the spear because he didn't think he would have been able to take both her and Michael leaning against him for support. He still didn't know how they'd come to the end of it with both Kali and Michael, who were fierce warriors and much more prepared for a fight then Adam, being injured while Adam hadn't a scratch on him.
They were half-way back to the cave when the first loud bang sounded. It shook the ground and Adam wrapped his arms tightly around Michael, trying to keep him upright.
"What was that?" Kali asked, her eyes wide as she looked round for the possible source of the sound.
"I don't know!" Adam cried, completely bewildered.
"Do you think it the game-makers?" Michael asked as another loud bang pierced the tranquillity of the arena.
"Should we run?" Kali asked and Adam shook his head. They could run, he and Kali, but Michael wouldn't make it and Adam wouldn't leave him there. Kali looked at him grimly and pulled the fish from the end of her spear, ready to fight. She stepped in front of Adam and Michael pushed the boy behind him while Adam struggled against him because Michael was injured and so was Kali while Adam could defend them.
"We kill whatever it is," Michael growled. "And if we can't, then we make sure Adam lives."
"Yes," Kali agreed.
"No, no. I don't want that!" Adam gasped, clinging to Michael's back. "Stop it, I can fight…I can…"
"Adam!" The voice was one Adam hadn't heard in what felt like months and he shook his head, not even sure he was hearing it or if this was a trick. He darted around Michael and Kali, ignoring their cries.
"Dean?" he called out, cupping his hands around his mouth. "Dean!"
Kali grabbed his shoulder and yanked him backwards. "Stop being stupid," she hissed.
The bushes to their left rustled and they turned, already geared for a fight when Dean came stumbling through the undergrowth, Castiel hot on his heels.
"Put down your weapons or I'll shoot you," he said, holding up his gun but Dean batted it down.
"Cas!" he muttered and Castiel dropped the gun. Adam's eyes widened and a second later he'd thrown his arms around the two of them, hugging them tightly.
"What are you doing here? Did the game-makers put you in here? Dean!" Adam didn't know what to say. He never thought he'd see his brother again and now not only was he here but Castiel as well. Adam had known that Dean would never willingly come back to this place and that Castiel would never let them be parted so had the game-makers let them volunteer together? Was this the new twist they had been waiting to spring on the remaining tributes? Making them fight their own families?
Dean's hand came up, cupping the back of his head gruffly and then he was in the tightest embrace Adam had ever known. "No, the game-makers are dead, Adam. I killed them. There are no more games."
"What do you mean?" Kali asked and Adam turned to see she'd retrieved the gun Castiel had dropped. She was holding it gingerly, uncertain how to and he sighed, reaching to take it from her.
"Dean, why'd you give Cas a gun?" he muttered. His brother had some stupid ideas sometimes.
"Is this really Dean?" Michael asked, something close to awe in his voice. "And Castiel? I never imagined I would meet them. It is an honor."
"I just told you the game-makers are dead and you're free to go and you think meeting me is an honor?" Dean shook his head, bewildered. "Adam, where did you meet this kid?" Castiel stuck out his hand for Michael to shake and Michael did, beaming.
"Adam!" There were more worried voice and then his mom was in the clearing with his dad beside her and Adam was swept up into her arms and his dad was kissing his hair and telling him how proud he was of him. His mom was crying and then Sam's arms wrapped around him from behind and Sam was crying and Adam didn't know how it had happened but he hugged them all back. He caught sight of Michael, standing a little way away from the family now, his hand on Kali's shoulder as she supported him.
Adam wondered why he didn't come closer, why he didn't put his arms around Adam too but he didn't ask. Everyone wanted to talk to him, to touch him, to make sure that he was real, alive and Adam wanted to touch them too. It had been so long since he'd seen them. He and Michael would have time to talk.
As they drove back to the Capitol it was almost surreal. His mom had patched up Kali's other bruises and marks and she'd checked the wound on her stomach. It was just an angry red mark now and Kali would always have a scar but Adam had done well. He'd saved her life and Adam couldn't be prouder of that. His dad kept ruffling his hair and telling Adam how proud he was that Adam was his son and how when he got home there was going to be a party and everyone would be invited. Sam kept staring at him, as if he couldn't believe Adam was real and Adam stared back until he couldn't stand it any longer and stuck his tongue out. Then they laughed and things were normal between them.
Dean kept checking on him, turning his head every so often to look away from the road and look at Adam. It was only Castiel who kept his distance. Unusually he'd declined Dean's offer to sit up front with him although he had looked torn as he'd done it and Adam knew it caused Castiel some pain to be away from Dean. He'd chosen to sit with Michael instead and their dark heads were bowed together, the two of them in a deep whispered conversation that Adam caught the merest snippets of. He gathered they were talking about love.
It felt unreal when they drove through the gates of the Capitol and people lined the streets cheering. Real people. Not demons. Adam could see it when he peered through the open window. No black, soulless eyes. Just people, ones he remembered from his district and people he'd never seen before. They were cheering so loud that he had to cover his ears.
"Kali, your parents are waiting for you!" Dean shouted over the din, grinning. "I met those brothers of yours, Michael, a right handful, but your sister is pretty easy on the eyes!" Without a look, Castiel raised his hand and smacked Dean across the back of his head before he returned to his conversation with Michael. Michael's face paled and he swallowed.
"Thanks," he muttered and Kali raised her hand, pressing it over her heart in the rebellion's symbol.
"I hope they will be proud of my choices," she said.
"I think they're just pleased you're alive," Kate said, stroking her hand through Kali's beautiful black hair and the girl nodded. Adam guessed she was still having a hard time letting go of her ideology.
They drove up to the Tributes apartments and Adam remembered how frightened he'd been coming here the first time. Now he was grateful to be back, grateful that he'd be sleeping in a warm, soft bed finally and he hardly looked back as he ran up the steps to his rooms. He glanced back once, to look for Michael but the other boy had already gone, directed off by Sam to the reunion with his family. Adam felt strange at that. Michael should see his parents and his siblings, of course he should, but Adam had just assumed when he looked behind him Michael would still be there the way he'd always been in the games.
His mom was calling him, patting the sofa and wanting to cuddle him though so Adam put those thoughts behind him. He settled into her arms and answered all her questions, lolled into relaxation by the steady beat of her heart.
Adam was surprised to come downstairs from his nap to find Castiel sitting alone in the living-room. Adam knew his father was plotting strategy against any demons that he considered still a threat and his mother was visiting the rebels who'd been hurt in the fighting to take the Capitol. He'd assumed that Castiel and Dean would have their own rooms somewhere to amuse themselves in. Still, it wasn't unpleasant to see his brother-in-law. Far from it in fact.
"Hi, Cas," He called. "Where's Dean?"
Castiel turned, his face expressionless. "Contrary to what you believe Adam, your brother and I are able to be apart for some moments of time." He paused then, his cheeks flushing slightly. "He's in the shower."
"Right," Adam said, settling himself down on the sofa next to Castiel. "And why haven't you joined him?"
Castiel fidgeted and Adam watched with some amusement. He wondered how Castiel was adapting to the idea of a world where he didn't need to be constantly vigilant against the threat of something taking Dean away again. Adam wondered if he'd even realised that was the case yet.
"Adam, I have spoken to Michael," Castiel began and Adam's head shot up.
"What did he say?" he asked. He hadn't spoken to Michael since their rescue. Everything had just been overwhelming since then and Michael had his own family who'd needed the reassurance that he was alive and back with them again.
"That he loves you and he will understand if your feelings have changed," Castiel said quietly, intelligent blue eyes scanning Adam's face for a hint of understanding. "He wondered if it was the games that made you act that way. He says his feelings were never faked but he thanks you for healing him and caring for him and he sets you free of any promises you made to him while there."
Adam felt tears prickling in his eyes. "Why would he say that? I told him that I love him and I meant it! Castiel, nothing I did or said was a lie!"
"Maybe he feels that way because you have not spoken to him since we found you," Castiel said, sitting very still and upright. "Do you remember when Dean came home to us? He would not let me kiss him at first. He had done all of that to come home to me but he would not let me hold him. He thought he was dirty and he thought I had been coerced into confessing my feelings for him. I have never done anything but adore your brother, Adam and he couldn't see that. Maybe your Michael is the same."
Adam sat still, tears flowing down his face, turning over and over in his mind everything he'd done since he returned, every time he had left Michael behind in the joy at being with his family again. Michael was being foolish, jealous even but at the same time Adam couldn't fault him for that. What they'd had together had been forged in the middle of a battle and now that they were at peace maybe Michael couldn't see that Adam was still the same boy he had been all time they had known each other, the same one who had fallen in love with him. They might have found each other in an artificial world but nothing they had had together had ever been artificial for Adam.
He stood up, wiping at his eyes, not caring that he was still in his pyjamas. "I need to find him. Castiel, thank you. You should…go and be with Dean," he said, laying his hand on his brother-in-law's shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze before he was out, running down the corridor, trying to find Michael's apartments.
Castiel sat very still on the sofa for a moment, a blush on his cheeks.
"Oi!" Dean shouted from the shower, the door half open now and the sound of running water audible. "You heard what he said, come and join me!"
Castiel bolted up off the sofa and into the shower, not even undressing before Dean pulled him under the steaming cloud of hot water and enveloped him in a kiss.
Adam leaned against the door to Michael's apartment, trying to get his breath back before he knocked. However, before he even had time to raise his hand the door open and Adam stumbled back in surprise.
"Um, I'm looking for Michael," he said, glancing up and down the boy who had answered the door. He was short, with messy dark honey coloured hair and there was a sticking plaster across his crooked, obviously broken nose. Gabriel,Adam realised with breathless excitement. He remembered how Michael had described his little brother's nose being broken by the soldiers. This had to be Gabriel. "I'm Adam," he said, holding out his hand. "You're Gabriel, right? Michael told me about you."
Gabriel ignored his hand and shouted over his shoulder, "Oi! Michael! That boy you want to kiss is here!"
Adam stared at his shoes in shock, his whole face going red. Michael came to the door and elbowed Gabriel out the way, shooing him off to go and play with his brothers and sisters while the adults talked. Adam didn't feel like an adult. He felt like a teenage boy who'd be thrust into a frightening world he didn't understand but then Michael reached out to take his hand and everything felt a little simpler.
"Should we walk?" Michael suggested. "My siblings are nice, once you get to know them, but they are a handful."
"Yes, let's go for a walk," Adam agreed hurriedly and Michael stepped out in to the corridor, shutting the door behind him.
"Have you seen Kali?" Adam asked him, feeling a little light headed as they walked together, hand in hand. Michael shook his head.
"No, she's been with her family. Like you. Like me," he said and Adam noticed that Michael couldn't quite meet his eye when he spoke. He squeezed his hand tightly, knowing that it wasn't just enough that he had come to visit. He owed Michael the reassurance he should always have given him.
"Castiel said that you'd spoke to him, that you told him I was free of my obligations to you," Adam said and he felt Michael wince. He turned to face him, stopping them both. "I came here to tell you that I love you," he said fiercely, taking Michael's face between his hands and forcing the older boy to look at him. "I love you and you're never getting rid of me."
Michael gasped and Adam wondered why he couldn't believe it was true after everything they'd been through together. How could he not know that Adam loved him?
"But Meg, the things I did, my leg…" Michael said and Adam wondered if this had been what kept Dean from Castiel, if he'd felt tainted because of the things he'd done to survive. He hadn't had a wound the way Michael did but if Michael thought that would make Adam feel differently about him then he was wrong.
"It doesn't matter," he said, standing on tip toes to kiss Michael softly. "None of it matters. You stayed alive and you found me. We found each other. That's all that matters."
"I love you," Michael said, arms wrapping round Adam and then a second later he had Adam pushed against the wall, capturing his mouth and the two of them kissed recklessly, hands running over each other's bodies, Adam trying to tug Michael's t-shirt over his head and he didn't even care if they were somewhere anyone could walk past and find them. He had Michael and that was all he wanted.
Then Michael was pulling away from him and Adam whimpered, his eyes still closed and he reached out after him but realized his fingers were grasping on open air and he opened his eyes, looking into the face of his handler. The demon had Michael by the shoulder, forcing him down on to his knees and Adam could see the tears of pain in Michael's eyes because of the injury he sustained to his leg during the games.
"What are you doing?" he squeaked. They were supposed to be safe here. Dean had told him the demons left alive had just been low-rung demons, ones who'd been there because it was a job, not because they, especially, enjoyed training teenagers to fight to the death with each other.
"Adam, run!" Michael groaned but Adam stood his ground. He wouldn't leave Michael. He'd never left him in the arena and he wouldn't leave him now.
"You killed Jeffrey," the demon snarled. "He was my star, he was going to win and a little nothing like you killed him. I'm going to make you suffer, I'm going to teach you what real pain is. I'm going to kill this boy and make you watch, the way you made me watch."
"You will never make it out of here alive," Adam said, trying to reason with him but the demon just laughed.
"Do you think I care?" he asked, fingers digging into Michael's shoulder and Michael whimpered. Adam didn't know what to do. He'd never thought the demon might actually care about Jeffrey. He'd never imagined that Jeffrey's maniacal love could actually be mirrored in the demon.
"I didn't want to kill him," he said. "I tried to stop him. I tried. He was going to kill Michael and me though and I had to do."
"You should have died!" the demon hissed. Adam shook his head.
"No, he should never have been in the games. You should have protected him. You knew what he was going into and you let him go. There was always a chance he'd die and you didn't mind that because you thought he'd win. This is what you have to live with now, the fact that you supported the games and you lost someone in them. Now you know how everyone in the districts feels!"
The demon growled. "Shut up!" He shook Michael and Adam swallowed hard. It was Michael's life he was bargaining with and he knew he shouldn't be but Adam had never been skilled at hand-to-hand combat, the best he knew how to do was keep the demon talking until help showed up. It had served him well in the arena and he just prayed it would be enough now.
"Listen to me, I won't be quiet," he said. "If you want to kill someone then it should be me; I was the one who killed Jeffrey." He offered his throat up to the demon. "Go on, I'll give you a fair shot."
"Adam, don't," Michael groaned.
"If he kills you then I don't want to live, so he might as well kill me too," Adam said. He stared down the demon, waiting for him to strike. The demon seemed to consider it and he let Michael go, shoving him down on to the floor.
"Very well," He agreed. "I'll kill you both."
Adam drew a deep breath, eyes darting to Michael and he focused on him because he wanted to remember every details of Michael and what he was about to do next was suicide but Adam lunged at the demon, knocking them both down onto the floor and he wrestled for the upper-hand, pinning the demons arms above its head.
"Help!" he shouted. "Someone! Help us!"
The demon freed its hand with ease and slapped Adam across the face, sending him tumbling backwards. Michael leapt on the creature, slamming its head repeatedly into the floor, trying to break its skull but the demon's black eyes refocused and he smacked Michael away from him as well. Michael landed awkwardly beside Adam and Adam rolled so he was protecting Michael with his body. The demon would have to tear though him first. There was still a chance someone else would reach them, someone who could save Michael even if Adam was as good as dead.
The blow he was expecting didn't come and Adam looked up, not sure what to expect but needing to see why the demon was drawing out his execution.
The demon was staring down at his chest, at the spear point poking through it and Adam was reminded of Virgil and the way Michael had killed him with the arrow. The spear was wrenched free and without its support the demon crumbled to the ground, the blackness finally fading from its eyes, leaving nothing behind.
"Honestly," Kali said, tossing her hair back over her shoulder. "I can't leave you two alone for a second, can I?"
Adam laughed, breathless and he leapt onto his feet. His ribs ached and he knew he should be resting but he threw his arms around Kali. She patted him awkwardly on the back. "There, now my debt is repaid. I saved your life," she said and Adam rolled his eyes.
"Kali, we're friends," he said, hugging her tightly once again and then he pulling away. Kali's cheeks were flushed and she looked away from him.
"A little help?" Michael muttered. He had pushed himself up on to his elbows. "I don't think my leg will support me." Adam knelt at his side and Kali reached out a hand and together they pulled him on to his feet and supported him, helping Michael limp back to his rooms.
With Kali's help, Adam was able to get Michael back to his rooms. His brothers and sister crowded around, causing more fuss then helping till Michael shooed them away. Adam put him to bed, worried about the strain to Michael's leg but Michael insisted that he just needed to rest. Kali left them soon after, muttering something about bedrooms and wrong. Adam knew she was giving them privacy in her own gruff way. He even heard her shepherding Michael's family away, promising to show them around the ruins of the Capitol as their own armed guard.
"Are you really certain that I shouldn't send someone to fetch my mom?" he asked, sweeping Michael's dark hair away from his forehead. "She'll help you feel better."
Michael grabbed his wrist, drawing Adam's hand to his lips and kissed his fingertips "I feel better having you here. You're the only medic I want."
Adam blushed and Michael took the advantage, dragging him into the bed with him. "What about your parents?" Adam squeaked and Michael's face darkened again.
"My parents are dead, Adam. My mother died giving birth to Gabriel and my father was a rebel. The Capitol executed him in our town square." He wasn't looking at Adam any more but backwards, into the past, remembering what had happened. Adam touched his shoulder gently, waking him from his memories.
"Do you mean you volunteered, knowing you were all your family had?" he asked, unable to believe Michael could have been so fool-hardy. He was the oldest, his brothers and sister would have been relying on him to protect them. Even as Adam wanted to chastise him, he couldn't. He knew Dean would have done the same for him and Sam, that he had tried to when it came to Adam but his age and his status as a tribute had already ruled him out. If his father and mother had been dead and Dean was all he had, then Adam doubted Dean would have acted any differently.
"I was supposed to protect them. That means protecting them from everything. I was never planning to lose, Adam," Michael said steadily and Adam felt his heart squeeze painfully in his chest. Everyone had had a good reason for winning. All of them had had a reason to come home. He was grateful that he and Michael had been able to make it back. He was grateful Michael's family wasn't left without him. He didn't think it was possible for a family to survive all of that pain.
"So that's why you didn't like me making the symbol," Adam said, resting his hand over his heart and he saw Michael wince even as he did it. Then Michael's hand covered his and he breathed out slowly.
"Yes, it reminded me of my father. I thought you'd be killed just like him. Instead, you helped to make his dream come true." He pulled Adam into his lap, stroking up and down his back, smiling at him. "I am glad I volunteered, Adam. I'm glad that I met you."
"I'm glad that I met you too, I think I would have died without you," Adam whispered, sliding his legs to either side of Michael's hips, trying to keep himself from settling too heavily on Michael considering his wound.
"You would have survived," Michael murmured, bringing their mouths together to kiss Adam eagerly. He pulled back from the kiss to tug Adam's shirt up over his head. His eyes raked over Adam's body and Adam blushed, turning his head away. He didn't see how Michael could like the way he looked. He was thin, wiry and without the sort of broad muscles or tanned skin that Michael had. Michael was the handsome one out of the two of them. Adam would always be in his shadow.
He ran his hands under Michael's shirt, pulled it off as well. He considered asking Michael if he really wanted this but after everything they'd been through he wouldn't doubt Michael now. He could feel Michael between his thighs, pressing up hard against him and Adam broke their kiss, pressing his head to Michael's chest, hearing the beat of his heart. He splayed his fingers over the spot, stroking the warmth of his skin. He wanted nothing more than to capture the feeling of Michael like this – alive and full of vigour and all his own.
"You are so beautiful," Michael whispered, his fingers carding through Adam's hair, tipping his head up so he could kiss him again. Adam struggled out of his trousers, knowing that there would be time for him to lay curled up in Michael's arms later, that he would have years now to listen to Michael's heartbeat but that he could not refuse Michael the chance to have him completely. Adam knew how important it must be to Michael that Adam would still touch him, that he would still want him. Castiel had told him as much, had told him how hard it would be. Michael already doubted himself because of the things he'd done. Adam wanted him to know that he would love him despite his wounds, despite everything. He could say the words till he was blue in his face but he knew that Michael would never believe him as he would if Adam showed him the truth in his words.
He tugged upon Michael's trousers, drawing out his cock. His fingers trembled a little. He'd only ever touched himself before and Michael was thicker, his girth more substantial then Adam's long, thin cock. He slid forward, letting their cocks slide together. Michael groaned, pulling him back to kiss him again.
"Do you know what you're doing, Adam?" he asked and Adam had to smile.
"I know what I'm doing." He'd grown up with Dean and Castiel. He'd had more than an eyeful on some occasions and Dean, before he went away, had never been shy about discussing his sex life. Adam had more than an idea of what he was planning. He might have only touched himself but that didn't mean that he was an innocent.
Adam trusted that Michael's room was much like his own. He leaned away, fumbling with the bedside table and right in the same draw were lotions and little bottles of oil. Adam didn't want to think about why they'd been put there, what they'd be used for when the Demons were in charge but he picked up the nearest bottle and opened it, pouring the oil into his hand. "I want you inside me, Michael. Do you want that?" he asked.
He'd always imagined he'd bottom but if Michael thought differently than Adam would do what he wanted. He'd have to be careful with him, so much more gentle then he was being now because right now Adam could set the pace and keep his weight off Michael's bad leg but that might not be the case if Michael didn't want it this way. Michael's hips jerked up and Michael groaned, head falling back against the bed frame.
"I want it, Adam. I really want it," he moaned, hands going to Adam's hips, sliding down to his ass and he pulled Adam's cheeks apart, rubbing a finger along Adam's puckered hole.
"Good," Adam whispered, grabbing hold of Michael's hand and pouring a good deal of the oil onto his fingers and then letting Michael continue to touch him. He wrapped his own oiled fingers around Michael's cock, stroking up and down, coating him all over, knowing that Michael needed to be slicked up if he would fit inside him. He gasped, eyes closing as Michael pushed a finger inside him and he squirmed for a moment. It wasn't the first time he'd had something inside him. He'd used his own fingers, used anything long and slender that he could get his hands on but it had been a long time and Michael was touching him now, Michael who he loved. It made everything so much more real than it had ever felt when it was just Adam alone, pleasuring himself and trying not to be overheard. Now he didn't care if people heard him. He wanted someone to know, everyone to know how much he loved Michael.
Michael pressed another finger up into him and Adam squirmed. It hurt, just a little, but his cock bounced eagerly against his stomach with every twist of Michael's hand and Adam knew if there was pain then he'd endure it because the pleasure was worth more to him than anything else. He bent his head, nuzzling his cheek against Michael's and begged him in a soft voice for more.
Michael drew his fingers out and a second later he was moving him, positioning Adam over his cock and Adam realised what he wanted, guiding Michael's cock to press against his hole and he sank back, letting the other boy slide inside him slowly. He tipped his head back, the stretch almost too much but he kept going till Michael was fully inside him.
He'd asked Castiel once why he did it, why he liked it and Castiel had told him that it was the closeness he relished more than anything. Adam could see that reasoning now. He looped his arms around Michael's neck and clung to him while Michael circled his hips, sliding a little into Adam and then pulling a little out.
"I love you," he whispered, rubbing at the base of Adam's spine and Adam began to relax, to open to him. He rose up onto his knees and then back down and that was enough to make Adam realise that Castiel had been candid in his explanation. Michael's cock brushed something inside him, some bundle of nerves that made Adam close his eyes and whine softly in the back of his throat. He came apart in Michael's arms, spurting over his stomach and across Michael. He felt Michael stiffen and for a moment he thought he'd done something wrong but then Michael's hips canted upwards and Adam felt a wetness spreading inside of him.
Adam worried he should be ashamed that he had come so quickly, that their first time together had not been slow but hurried and over too quickly but there would be time for more later. They were young and they were alive and they would spend the rest of their lives together. After everything they had done, how long they had been waiting for this, Adam didn't care that it had been over after only a few minutes. It had been the greatest few minutes of his life so far and he was eager to attempt them again soon.
Carefully, slowly, he let Michael's spent cock slip from inside him and he rolled away and on to his side. A second later Michael's arms were around him and Michael's head was pillowed against his shoulder. Adam sighed contentedly, reaching a sticky hand up to pat Michael's cheek.
"I love you too," he said sleepily and felt Michael's smile against his skin.
"Every demon is dangerous," John thundered, slamming his hand on to the table. "We should make an example of all of them."
A rebellion was one thing, Adam was finding out, but trying to rebuild civilization afterwards was something else. Dean and his father found themselves cast as leaders in a power share and while they were attempting democracy it was a difficult concept to grasp. Everyone was used to orders, to life and death by very simple rules. Sam had to keep stopping them, reminding them that everyone had to have a voice in their new society. The three survivors of the games and the revolutions leaders spoke on behalf of all the people now. Breaking down the barriers between the districts was hard enough. Even with Kali as his friend, Adam still found himself distrustful of anyone from what had previously been District Two.
John had called the meeting after discovering the demon attack on Michael and his son. Everyone who could, had crowded into what was once the auditorium that tributes had driven through on chariots on display for the demons who would possibly be their sponsors. Adam sat up on the dais that had once been the place of the game-makers, surrounded by his family, seated between Michael and Kali. The debate about what should be done with the remaining demons raged around him and Adam held on to Michael's hand but said nothing.
"What do you mean make an example of them?" Kate asked. She was so very calm. Adam wondered how she managed but his mother was their chief medical expert now, she was used to a crisis. He still couldn't believe that while he'd been trapped in the arena, his family had orchestrated a rebellion. Even his quiet, loving mother had done her part. She was one of its heroes. She had saved lives. Adam was in awe of her.
"Dean and I have talked," John said but Dean cut across him.
"We should make them feel what we felt. We should hold a game with their children, make them fight."
Adam gasped. Dean's magnified voice echoed around the room and there were cries of shock, cheers of agreement.
"That's barbaric," Kate said, shaking her head.
"We take a vote," Dean said. "Sam says we need to vote so we vote. I vote that we do it."
"And I vote against it," Kate said, meeting Dean's eye and he glanced away.
"I vote for yes," Kali said. Adam would never have imagined she would vote differently.
"I vote for yes," John said and Sam followed him, almost apologetically abstaining from the vote.
"I vote against it," Adam glanced at Michael next to him and he squeezed his hand tightly. He never wanted anyone else to go through what the two of them had been though, what their family had been through. Even if they were talking about the demons he'd come to realize that demons could feel something, even if it was a twisted form of love.
"I am also against it," Michael said. "We're better than them, aren't we?"
"So we've got a draw then?" Adam asked. "Three for and three against and one abstaining. We should move on to the next business"
"Not yet," Dean sounded triumphant. "Cas hasn't voted yet."
Adam felt his heart plummet. Castiel would almost certainly vote with Dean. There would be other games, more children would die, the whole cycle would start again and they'd prove they were no better than the demons who had forced them into the arena together.
All eyes in the auditorium turned to Castiel, waiting for his deciding vote. He stared straight ahead, his mouth pinched tight and small, staring so intently it looked as if he was trying to see into the future. Then, slowly, he shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Dean," he whispered. "I have to vote no. I can't do it."
Dean's face fell and Adam wondered if he'd really thought about what he was asking. Castiel had been so damaged by what had happened. He'd watched first Dean and then Adam go through the games and it had broken him. Adam didn't even understand all the ways that it had hurt him. Nobody ever said Castiel was mad, not in front of Dean at least, but Dean had to see it. He had to see the pressure he was putting on Castiel.
Castiel stood up suddenly, his chair falling over behind him, the sound of it echoing round the room.
"You are better than this," He said to Dean and then he was gone, door slamming behind him and the hall erupted with noise. People were calling for another vote, others were shouting for new business. Adam thought he heard people whispering about how Castiel shouldn't even have had a vote. Dean bolted from his chair and followed Castiel and Adam sank down into his chair. It was all supposed to be over now. The fighting was supposed to have stopped but everything just seemed to have been made worse.
"That is enough." Kali clapped her hands together and the room fell quiet. "The vote has been taken. There will be no games. The demons will keep their children. We must move on to the next business."
Adam was grateful that Kali accepted decisions without question. Even if they weren't ones she liked she was devoted now to the ideal of the democracy and to supporting it. Adam was thankful that she could take control because he needed to slip away and make certain that Castiel and Dean weren't falling apart. This should have made them stronger. Michael squeezed his hand tightly then let him go and Adam got up, following Castiel and Dean out into the hall. As he closed the door behind him, he heard his father's voice calling out the next order of business.
His footsteps echoed down the corridor as Adam ran, glancing into the doors of open rooms till finally he caught sight of them. They were standing, arms wrapped around each other, foreheads pressed together and Adam stopped, hovering in the doorway to the little room they were in, listening.
"I love you," Dean said, his eyes tight shut and Adam saw Castiel smile. "I love you and I don't want to do anything to hurt you. I…I'm as bad as they are, Cas. They trained me to be like them."
"You are not," Castiel said firmly. "You are not like them. Don't you dare say that, Dean. You are a good person."
"Only because of you, Cas. You kept me sane," Dean murmured.
Their mouths met, the kiss soft and slow. Adam moved away from the door, his heart hammering in his chest but his fears had been laid to rest. They would be fine. They had been tested and their love had not been found wanting. Adam smiled as he walked away, hoping that he and Michael would prove to be that strong. He thought they would. He was almost certain they would. Thinking of Michael made him want to see him even more and Adam ran back to the auditorium, pushing the door open slowly just to stand there and gaze at Michael.
The other boy caught his eye and smiled at him. Adam's heart fluttered and he knew that whatever tests might come he and Michael would be strong enough to withstand them. They had already been through the closest thing to Hell and they had found each other there. Everything now could only be easier. It had to be. They deserved that much at least.
Epilogue: Five Years Later
It wasn't often they all got together. It was hard for them all to make the effort but they made the effort for this. The transport network had been one of the first things repaired and Adam went west with Michael to see his home. It had been strange at first, trying to fit into Michael's life with his brothers and sisters. It was like suddenly adopting grown children. Lucifer and Raphael hated him, Anna was sweet but reserved.
Gabriel played pranks on him and Adam believed for the longest time that Gabriel hated him too until Michael explained it was his way of showing how much he liked him. Even so, it took Adam months before he stopped wanting to run away, to board a train and run home. Slowly things got better, slowly they accepted him but Adam was still glad as they grew up, found their own lives and moved on. It was only Gabriel who still lived with them now and Adam was certain he was always going to be under their feet in some form or another. They'd packed up Gabriel, put him on the train with them and started travelling early in the morning because even with the fixed transport system it still took the best part of a day to reach their destination.
His mom had stayed in the Capitol. They talked every day and Adam wrote her letters. His mom had set up her own hospital. There were a lot of casualties at first and it was more of a field-hospital than anything else but slowly people had stayed, she'd trained them and they'd built something that would last, that would help people. Adam was proud of her but he missed her. The fact that this journey meant a chance to see her again was an extra bonus for Adam.
His father had chased down the last of the Demons. He was a hero, a bounty-hunter and Adam was proud of him too. He got occasional letters and about once a year his dad rolled up to visit but this was the only time he saw his father regularly. They all kept this date.
Sam and Kali had stayed in the Capitol to create democracy. Sam, to his complete surprise and Adam's, if he was being honest with himself, ended up being voted in as their first president. He asked Kali to be his advisor, to help him because while Sam was a man of peace, Kali was a woman of war. She'd ended up the head of the armed forces. She'd even trained most of those who'd volunteered for their makeshift army. They were both busy, involved people but they always made time. They had to. It was a promise.
Dean and Castiel had gone back to their home, to their little house on the edge of town but they weren't alone. The rebellion hadn't been bloodless. There had been pockets of demons who'd held out, who'd gone after innocent people who'd never left their homesteads. In the months following the rebellion there were massacres across the country. In one of those massacres the only survivor was a two month old baby girl. She'd been brought to the Capitol. Adam could still remember how his mother had held her, how the little girl had been crying until Castiel took her in his arms. She had big green eyes, little tufts of dark hair and when Castiel hummed to her she'd stopped sobbing. They'd taken her home with them when they left. They called her 'Mary'. Her original name was lost.
It was her birthday they all gathered for. They managed it every year, no matter what they were doing. They gathered for her birthday and the national holiday celebrating the end of the Capitol and the end of the demons rule.
The train rolled into the station and Adam looked out through the widow to see Dean on the station platform, Marry seated on his shoulders. He waved and she waved back. Michael peered out of the window beside him, smiling. "We should have one," he said, his fingers brushing the back of Adam's hand.
There was a crash further down the carriage as Gabriel pulled his suitcase from the rack and down on top of himself. Adam winced. "We've already got one."
Michael got to his feet gingerly and he moved slowly down the carriage to help Gabriel. Adam watched them, still wishing he had done more to help. He was certain it was his hesitation in the arena that had left Michael with lasting problems. He still walked with a slight limp and if the weather was bad, his leg ached. He always told Adam it was nothing but Adam still wished he had done more. The carriage door opened and a second later Adam had a lap full of squirming five year old. Mary's smile was so bright, her laugh infectious and he held her close, wondering if Michael was right and they should have one of their own. There were so many children who were left orphaned by the rebellion. He and Michael could make one of them so happy.
"Hi, little bro." Dean ruffled his hair and Adam looked up into his face. Dean looked contented finally, the haunted look gone from his eyes.
"Hi, Dean. Where's Cas?"
"At home, fixing lunch," Dean said, sweeping Mary up into her arms and tickling her stomach. "He's been baking since this morning, kicked me out of the house to come and pick you up. Do you remember when he used to be nice? Yeah, I don't."
They managed to get the bags off the train without Gabriel breaking anything. Michael gave Mary a hug and Dean dropped some hints about how they'd all like to come and visit Michael and Adam for an extended holiday and how Mary would like to be a flower girl if the possibility ever came up. They rode back to the house in the car that Dean had spent the last five years restoring from scrap. It was a beautiful thing now, purring as they drove down the street. There were ribbons, flowers and banners hanging over the streets, celebrating the holiday; and Adam snuggled tightly against Michael.
Parents would be telling their children the story of the final Games tonight. They'd gather round and tell the story of Adam and Michael and how they'd fallen in love, they'd tell the story about Dean and how his concern for his family had been stronger than the demons. They'd tell the story about how they, themselves, had been so brave. It was still humbling to Adam to think that he had played a part in this history.
They drew up outside the house. Sam was already there, feet up on the picnic table in the front yard, Kali at his side, going through papers and Gabriel barrelled out of the car before it had even come completely to a stop, eager to get their attention all to himself. Adam rolled his eyes. At first Gabriel's little crush had been endearing and Adam was certain it would fade with time but if anything it had grown stronger. Gabriel couldn't seem to decide if he like Kali more or Sam and these family get-togethers allowed him to bask in the reflected glory of the both of them.
Castiel came to the door of the house, his and Dean's second adopted child, Sammy, resting on his hip. "Adam? Your mother called. She should be here in an hour. She met up with your father and they're going to drive down," He said, moving to kiss Dean as his husband ducked past him and into their house.
"Come on! Come on!" Mary squeaked, grabbing Adam's hand and pulling him after her. "I want to show you my drawings."
Adam glanced at the little house, at the sun shining on it, at his family laughing and at Michael who was looking at him with a fond gaze. When they got home they would talk about marriage and children and when they would talk about it, Adam would say yes. He wanted this little slice of Heaven for his own.
They deserved it.