A/N:So, this was written for the spn_adambang challenge over on livejournal. It has artwork, done by the amazing dollarformyname, and you can find a link to the art on my profile page. Please go tell her how awesome she is!
Warnings: Vague references to previous non-con and torture, self-harm (sort of), show levels of language and violence. Also minor spoilers for the beginning of season 7.
The first thing Adam notices is the silence.
It's never quiet in Hell, and even in the Cage, the sounds of the rest of Hell had filtered in. Adam can feel light, too, burning against his eyelids, and while he takes a second to be glad he has eyelids, it's just wrong. The Cage is murky and dim, a perpetual red-tinted twilight.
Adam opens his eyes, shielding them with his arm. It's bright, brighter than he's seen since the blinding white of Michael's true form. It takes a moment for his eyes to adjust, for him to take in his surroundings.
It's got to be a trick.
Ages ago, back when Michael and Lucifer first got bored of plain torture, they'd made worlds for Adam and Sam to survive, running them through them like rats in a maze. The angels had become bored of that after Sam escaped, but they must have decided to give it another shot.
Adam's lying in the middle of a street paved with golden-red stones, the bricks hot and rough under his hands. The angle of the sun feels different from what Adam vaguely remembers, closer and brighter, and there are heat waves shimmering over the stones of the street. The sky is clear and oddly flat, as if it doesn't fade to smudged blue-white at the horizon like it's supposed to.
Adam's skin is starting to feel tight and prickly from the sun. It's an effort to drag himself onto his feet, but he manages, stumbling through a row of tall arches into a covered walkway that runs along the large building that lines the street. It's shady underneath, and the coolness sinks into Adam's skin like a balm.
Now that the sun's out of his eyes, Adam takes another look at the street. It's long and even, curving in a smooth line away from him on both sides. There are tall buildings either side of the street, mirror images of each other made from the same terra-cotta stone of the road. They've got deep overhangs and arches facing the road, like some mimicry of a Roman aqueduct. Adam stays against the archway he'd entered through. He's bone-tired, and he feels like he hasn't slept in years. He probably hasn't. There's no real rest in the Cage.
Behind him, in the wall of the building, there's another set of arches, farther apart than the ones in the walkway, and more door-like. They're also less inviting, with nothing but pitch-blackness behind them, and Adam's not ready for that. He stays where he is.
He allows himself to slide down until his back's against the stone. There's a sharp flash of pain when he braces himself with his hand, and he lets out a surprised hiss. The skin's hot and blistered where the sunlight hit it, but Adam doesn't think he was out long enough to get sunburned. This world's not real, though; it doesn't play by the rules. Adam frowns at his palm, but it's not like he's not used to pain. He curls his hand against his stomach and drifts into sleep.
Adam wakes up to the sound of breathing.
It's the first foreign sound he's heard here, and he starts, then freezes, waiting for pain that doesn't come. Then he remembers where he is and opens his eyes.
The sun is still up, but it's low in the sky, casting long black shadows against the stones. There's a girl standing in one of the doorways, staring at him. Adam stares back. She clears her throat.
"Are you a monster?" She's about ten, with dark eyes and long hair in two braids down her back. Her plain dark dress and frilly white pinafore look about two hundred years out of date.
"No," Adam says, on reflex.
"Oh." She frowns, suddenly crestfallen.
"Sorry," Adam says awkwardly. She looks like she's about to cry.
Something's off here. Adam can't place it, but he knows something's wrong. He feels like he should know, but his head's fuzzy and his memory's dull and fragmented, and he's a little grateful for that.
The girl's still frowning at him. "If you're not a monster, are you a person?"
"Um, yeah, I guess."
She brightens a little. "That's fine then." She steps towards him, stopping when she's about a foot away. She sinks to the ground next to him, skirt pooling around her. "You seem nice," she tells him, cocking her head slightly. "I think we could be friends."
"Sure," Adam says, but he's starting to feel uneasy. He remembers what's wrong now; there's never other people in the archangel's made up worlds. Animals and monsters, yes, but never people.
The little girl's frown has turned into something that's almost sadness. "We could be friends," she says again, "but I'm so hungry. Sorry." She smiles, and there's too many teeth and they're too sharp.
Her fingers are turning into talons, and then she's lunging at him. Adam scrambles back like a crab into the sunlight. His palms burn where they touch the stone, but Adam doesn't care. He just needs to get away.
The girl tries to follow him, but she stops on the edge of the shade, hissing.
Sunlight, Adam realizes. Teeth equal vampire, vampire plus sun equals ka-poof. Right. The sun's setting, though. Adam can feel its light growing dimmer, the shadows getting longer, and it's not going to protect him for long.
The vampire-girl knows it too. She smiles from the shadows, light glinting off her fangs.
Adam's familiar with the rules now. If Sam was still here, they'd stay and fight, but Sam's gone, and that's left Adam with the only way to fight he knows: run.
His sneakers catch on the rough cobblestones and he almost trips, but he catches his balance and keeps going. As weak as it is, the sunlight burns into the back of his neck, pushing him forward and reminding him of how little time he has left. He knows that if—when—he dies here, he'll just wake up in the Cage again, but he wants to put it off for as long as possible. Even vampires and radioactive sunlight are better than Michael and Lucifer.
He needs shelter. There's no way the girl is the only monster out there and the sun's setting fast. He can't remember what Sam told him about vampires, back in the first few years when the angels fought each other and ignored the brothers, leaving them to huddle in a desolate corner of the Cage. Sam had protected him, tried to keep him sane in those first few horrible months. It had only gotten worse from there, of course, but Adam still remembered a few of the stories Sam had told him—the emotions if not the words. It was a lifetime ago, after all.
There's growling from the shadows to his right, and Adam runs faster. He's to the curve in the street that had been the end of his line of vision before, and he's just hoping it doesn't lead to a dead end.
The street opens up into a circular plaza, and Adam manages to run a little faster. There's a round tower with a comfortably solid-looking door at its base in the center of the plaza, and Adam makes for it. He knows there's no guarantee the tower's any safer than the street, but he's fine with risking it; the noises from behind him are getting closer, a muttered chorus of growls, snarls, and worst of all, a high, demented giggling.
The tower door is unlocked, and Adam half-falls into the darkness inside. He slams the door shut and leans against it, bracing it with his body, breathing hard.
It's not completely dark inside. There's a faint green glow like bioluminescence that, while not particularly bright, keeps Adam from being completely blind.
From what Adam can see, the tower's empty. There's nothing on the bottom floor, not even furniture, and when he turns to latch the door, there's no lock either. There's just an iron staircase, curving up around the wall of the tower and a trap door at the top, maybe twenty feet over Adam's head.
Adam takes the steps two at a time. The trapdoor's not locked either, and he pushes it open carefully, expecting something nasty to jump at his head at any moment. The attack never comes, and he pulls himself through the door without incident.
The top of the tower is just one room. The green light is stronger here, and Adam can see a little more clearly. A cool breeze ruffles Adam's hair, and he looks up. There are little arched windows set high in the wall, but there's no moon or starlight coming through. The sky outside is a perfect velvet black. Adam's distracted by that for only a second. Then he sees the obvious thing he was missing: the room has furniture—a dusty bed, a low table, a stool with a cushion, and—yes—a long, wicked-looking knife.
It looks like someone was living here, but whoever it was, they're long gone. Adam crosses the floor carefully, looking for tripwires or booby traps, and when he doesn't find any, he picks up the knife. It's heavy and cool in his hand, and he feels better already. You behead vampires. He remembers now.
He's been so focused on the knife before that he hadn't noticed why the light was so different in this room. Downstairs, it had been a diffused glow that came out of the stones themselves. Here, the luminescence looks like it's been painted onto the walls in complex sigils and swirls. Adam recognizes some of them from Sam's impromptu Hunter lessons and his brother's attempts to hold off the archangels. There are signs to repel or contain demons, ghosts, and angels that Adam recognizes, and far, far more that he doesn't know but can guess at. He's realizing now why the tower doesn't have locks to keep the monsters out: it doesn't need them.
So, either whoever was living here was a seriously hardcore Hunter, or this is just Michael and Lucifer messing with him. Adam's leaning towards the latter. Still, he's here, and it feels safe, and Adam's still exhausted. He collapses onto the bed, raising a small cloud of dust.
He expects to fall right to sleep, like he had earlier, but it turns out the night isn't as quiet as the day. It sounds like every creature that was on his trail is waiting below the tower, and their wordless moans and howls drift up through the windows. It takes Adam a long time to fall asleep, and when he finally does, he has nightmares.
Adam wakes up to sunlight. It's the crisp, pink light of early morning, and Adam's never been so glad to see it. The city's quiet now, the monsters gone, and Adam feels—not healed, not by a long shot—but better, rested. Like he can actually try and beat this thing.
Like you can, the snide voice in his head that sounds a little bit too much like Michael says. You used to have the great Sam Winchester on your side and you couldn't. Now it's just you. Right, good luck there.
But the thing is, Sam always tried to win, to kill the Big Bad, to save the day in whatever nightmare world they'd been thrown into. Adam's not like him. He's not brave like Sam; he's not strong like him. He's not a Hunter. He's not stupid, though. He can hide, he can stay here, and keep out of the monsters' way, and even if he stays here, he won't be in the Cage. Anything's better than that.
His sunburn is already healing, and Adam's thankful for that. His throat's dry and scratchy, and it's a familiar need for something that he's forgotten. He shoves it away, locks it up with all the other things he's trying to forget. He has to survive. He can do this.
His first step is to try and get his bearings. The windows are a little too high for him to look out of, so he pulls the stool over and stands on that.
The tower isn't that tall by Adam's standards, but it's still higher than any of the other buildings around him. He hadn't been sure what to expect—some echo of Hell perhaps, or maybe the horizon would be nothing but a jagged black cliff, but the view out the window looks surprisingly normal.
It's clearly a city; it's too big to be anything else, and the stone buildings stretch as far as he can see, graceful concentric rings of streets and buildings identical to the ones he'd woken up by. There are other towers, rising up above the terra-cotta roof tiles at regular intervals. Adam thinks he's looking towards the center of the city, because the circles are getting smaller. He can't quite see what's at the heart of the city; it's almost like there's a veil hiding it from sight right at the edge of his vision. If he looks at it out of the corner of his eye, he can almost see something tall and dark behind it, but it's little more than a mirage.
He steps off the stool and sinks down onto it, running his hands over his face. The thing is, it's easy to think he'll just stay here, but that mist over the epicenter of the city is haunting him. He can probably make it there before nightfall; all he needs is something to keep the sun off his skin. He has the knife; he's not completely defenseless.
Adam sticks the knife in his belt and pulls the sheet off the bed, wrapping it around himself like a shroud. He knows this is crazy, but he can't stay here and not know what's going on. The thought crosses his mind that this is exactly what Sam would do. Maybe he's more his father's son than he'd have liked to think.
The sun stings against his face when he steps outside the tower, but he pulls the sheet further over his head. He's too hot almost immediately, and the cool of the walkway is too promising to resist. He just has to run the second he sees anyone else. Easy.
The streets are empty and peaceful, but now that he's looking for it, Adam can see flickers of movement behind the dark doorways. He pulls his knife out, hefting it in his sweating hand.
It doesn't take him long to realize that there's a rhythm to the layout of the streets. Each ring has several of the round plazas with a tower like the one he'd stayed in, and each plaza has a short alley that leads into the next ring. Adam's trying to keep track of how far he's gone, but it's difficult. The streets are identical and there are no markers to tell them apart.
Before long, Adam's realizing that he didn't exactly think this through. He gets distracted by what looks like glowing eyes in one of the doorways and loses his count, and then all he knows is that he's still heading into the heart of the city and away from the one safe place he's found here.
It's also farther than it looked from the tower. Even in the shade, Adam's light-headed and a little dizzy. He tries to find things to focus on, like the pattern of the bricks under his feet, or the way his nose itches. It works, for a while.
He thinks he's getting close when the sun starts to set. Adam freezes for a second, remembering how quickly it had gotten dark the night before.
He wants to run, but feels like that would be a mistake. He can feel eyes watching him, and he doesn't want to give them something to chase. He keeps going, almost stumbling more often than he'd like. Adam tries the door of the next tower he finds but the door's locked. He tries to break it in, but the door's solid as well. He moves on.
After he tries the tower, he starts to head back into the shade. Then he thinks he sees someone watching him, someone small, with long braids and skirts. He pulls the sheet up and sticks to the middle of the street after that.
An hour after the sun begins to set, Adam breaks into a jog. He should have turned back hours ago, he should have tried to make it back to his tower while he still could, but he doesn't have a choice now. He has to keep going.
Then, the last flare of orange vanishes from the sky, and the city is left in darkness. Adam's breath is deafening in his ears, and he feels horribly alive and vulnerable in a way he's forgotten he could.
"Hello there, pretty," someone—or something—hisses from the shadows.
The city's not completely dark, he realizes. There's lines of the faint green phosphorescence running down the sides of the street, like lights in a movie theater, though Adam can't believe he can remember that and not what his mother's face looked like. It doesn't matter though, because he can see, just enough that he doesn't miss the turns.
The monsters are close on his heels, of course. Adam's not sure how many there are, doesn't want to know. He doesn't look back.
Then Adam stumbles to a halt. He'd made the turn, taken the alley out of the plaza, but there's only a blank stone wall ahead. It's at least twice his height, solid as anything, and it's blocking his way while the alley behind him fills with creatures out of his worst nightmares.
Adam makes one futile leap for the top of the wall, but it doesn't even come close. Someone behind him laughs.
He turns around, pressing his back against the wall and holding the knife out. "Stay back," he says, and it's too weak and raspy to carry any weight. Looking out into the darkness, Adam can see the edges of shadowy forms, hints of teeth and talons grotesquely lit from beneath by the green light. His palms are clammy, and he shifts his grip on the knife to hold it with both hands. He'll be back with Michael soon.
The thing closest to him—Adam thinks it might be another vampire—lunges and Adam strikes. The knife must hit the thing, because it snarls and jerks away. Adam presses forward, swinging the knife like a sword. He feels the tear of claws across his shoulder a second later, and the impact almost knocks him to the ground. He recovers and flails wildly. He thinks he might have tagged whatever it was, but between the darkness and the press of inhuman bodies around him, he can't be sure.
He's losing blood fast too. Adam knows he only has a few more minutes of fight left before he passes out. The pain's not too bad at least, but Adam's not sure if it's because the Cage has completely messed up his perception of pain or if he's going into shock.
Then something has Adam by the throat, and it's holding him up against the wall. He gasps, stabbing up with the knife. It doesn't faze his attacker, and the knife falls from his hands as he claws at the hand cutting off his air. Then the hand's gone, and he's on all fours gasping for breath.
There's only a second of relief before they're tearing into him again, and this time Adam doesn't have the knife, or even the strength he would have needed to wield it. All he can do is curl up and wait for the pain to stop. He can already almost feel Michael's fingers digging under his skin, dragging him back to reality.
Just before everything goes dark, there's a flash of bright white light from the plaza, illuminating the street up like a lightning strike. Huh, Adam thinks, then even that's gone.