"Goodbye, Uriel," Michael snapped pointedly. Maybe it was wrong, but Dean could definitely appreciate someone who could send Uriel packing—Uriel, who had apparently been just as annoying thirty years ago as he had been in their time, at least before Anna had killed him.
Still though, he was too focused on Sam's unmoving (don't think dead, Dean) form to pay more than cursory attention to Michael. Or to his mother, which was why he was shocked when a brush of John's fingers against Mary's head sent his mother collapsing into unconsciousness.
Then Michael was kneeling down next to Sam, a gentle brush of fingers along his hairline—almost stroking, rather than just a single healing prod like Cas used. It was somewhat unnerving that Michael-in-John's-body was displaying more affection towards Sam than John himself had ever shown towards either of his sons. Unnerving, but somehow comforting.
Dean's entire body relaxed as colour flowed back into Sam's skin, his breath starting up and his eyes sliding slowly open. "Sammy?"
"M'okay, Dean," Sam called reassuringly, trying to sit up.
"I'm sorry," Michael murmured, still kneeling next to Sam. He secured on hand on Sam's flailing shoulder, holding him to the ground. "Don't try to stand yet, you'll be too disoriented."
"What?" Dean asked.
"I'm sorry. That you've had such a difficult life. A painful life. Neither of you deserved it."
Dean snorted before he could stop himself. "What do you care? We're just a couple of humans."
"Firstly, because my father commanded that we love all humans, that we learn from all that they could teach us. And secondly, because you are my true vessel, and your pain is my own. I understand you, Dean. I understand how much it hurts you that you've failed to protect your brother so many times. I understand you so very, very well. Better than you understand yourself, at times."
"Woah," Sam muttered, squirming under Michael's firm, but not pinching hold against his shoulder. "Déjà vu."
The change between Zachariah's threats and this new method of persuasion was jarring at the very least.
"Hold still, Samuel. I've just brought you back from the dead; is it too much to ask that you lay there and recover for two minutes?" Michael demanded. Dean and Sam both stared at him, scolding Sam like an errant child.
"I'm not about to let you take a ride," Dean snapped, before realizing what, exactly he had said. Sam choked on thin air at the same time. "Shut up, bitch," he directed at his younger brother.
"Whatever, jerk." Sam's customary response was difficult to take seriously, since he started laughing as soon as it had left his lips.
Michael appeared to give up on making Sam hold still, because he smoothly rose to his feet, stepped forward to stand opposite Dean. "Where is Castiel?"
"Laid up with a damned blood clot, recovering from the effort of time warping us here," Dean snapped. "Why?"
"I already know about the state of Castiel's health," Michael said, his tone somehow conveying both patience and irritation. "I need to know where he is, so that I can fix him. Dean, I understand that you are protective of your angel, but you're making it incredibly difficult for me to help you."
Sam dropped back into peals of laughter at the same time as Dean spluttered in protest. "Cas isn't my angel!"
Michael rolled his eyes. "I do not have time for your identity crisis over an imaginary social and moral boundary that humans invented to ban something that made them uncomfortable. Castiel is not male—angels do not have gender. His vessel is male, but it is not morally wrong for you to be sexually attracted to it."
Sam was still laughing. Dean shifted uncomfortably.
"Why would you want to help us?"
Michael looked him in the eye. "Because I have no interest in the apocalypse." Sam and Dean both opened their mouths, but made slight strangling noises when they found themselves unable to speak. "Believe me or don't, I don't care. But it's the truth. My brother—I put him in the Cage once. I don't know that I have the strength to do so again. He is my brother, and we were once as close as the two of you. Either my Father created us to have free will, in which case I have the choice to avoid fighting him, or my Father created us to do as we would—created Lucifer to rebel, created me to stop him—in which case, I am done being a pawn. If this is what it costs me, I am done being a pawn. If this is what a good son does, then I am done being a good son, and I am done obeying.
"I have to believe that Lucifer can be redeemed somehow. That some part of the brother that I loved is still in there, and before I lift a finger to harm him, I have to try and reach it. Dean, you, of all people must understand that."
"That still doesn't explain what you want us for," Dean said.
Michael rolled his eyes. "Apocalypse or not, I will still need a vessel."
"I told you, no. Dude, you're riding in my father."
"And I apologize for the awkwardness that this inevitably causes, but I needed to communicate with you in person somehow, since clearly, sending others to do it for me hasn't worked out. I'm sorry about Zachariah, by the way. I'm afraid I underestimated his dislike of humans and desire for a promotion. I also think that he's been doing more listening to Raphael than to me. Who's behaviour I also apologize for."
"Zachariah gave me stage four stomach cancer, and he made Sam's lungs disappear to make a point," Dean snarled. "And Raphael smote Cas."
"And Father brought him back," Michael said. "No harm done."
"No harm—no harm— no harm done?" Dean spluttered. "Raphael smote him!"
"Yes, and Father brought him back," Michael repeated patiently. "Dean, I have no intention of allowing the apocalypse to happen, but I will need a vessel, if only to meet my brother on level footing. You are my true vessel. You really are made for me. It won't harm you, not like that vessel of Raphael's that you and Castiel found. My Father is gone. Raphael has gone very, very wrong. Lucifer is... Lucifer. Nobody has seen Gabriel in over two-thousand years. I'm doing the best that I can, Dean, but I need you to cooperate with me."
Dean coughed loudly. "Yeah. This is sort of awkward. About Gabriel..."
"What about Gabriel?"
"We've seen him. Recently, actually. He trapped us in a bunch of TV shows, tried to force us into saying yes to you and Lucifer."
Michael's borrowed brow furrowed. "Why would Gabriel want to get the apocalypse moving? He's never hated humans, not like Raphael or Lucifer, and he's never been a fighter or a soldier. He's a messenger. He always hated it when we fought."
"He didn't," Sam said from the floor. "He said that he couldn't watch you two tear each other apart anymore—that was why he ran away. He's been posing as a pagan trickster. He just wants it to be over with. He wants it finished, like ripping off a band-aid so that he can go back to pretending that it didn't happen. He's pretty much a huge coward, but..."
"Shut up, Sam," Dean snapped. "Trust me, I've been there. I get him. Maybe he didn't react in the best way, but I get where he's coming from."
Sam dropped his head back against the wall. "Sorry," he muttered quietly. Dean nodded jerkily.
"I don't understand," Michael said, tilting his head to the side in a way that was curiously reminiscent of Cas. "Why would you laud Gabriel for running away? You've never run from anything in your life. You would consider it shaming to have done so."
Dean snorted bitterly. "You and Lucifer were tearing each other apart. I know what that looks like. How much that hurts. When you just can't fucking watch anymore, but there's nothing that you can do to stop it, either. Till your baby brother and entire purpose in life says he's leaving everything that he's ever known behind—leaving you behind— for something else. Something he says is better. And then Dad tells him not to come back." Sam flinched violently on the floor.
"Gabriel." Michael sounded... lost. "I thought, perhaps, Gabriel was the one brother that I didn't fail, but. Obviously, I was wrong. Trickster. Honestly. Now, I think that it is past time that we are no longer in this time period, and unless the two of you morons want to leave Castiel here, you need to tell me where he is."
Sam blurted out the room and name of the motel where they had left Cas, and then, with a blink, they were standing in it, Cas himself unconscious on the bed. Michael crossed the room, murmuring softly in Enochian. Dean glared at Sam, who shrugged.
Cas was starting to respond to the guttural syllables emerging from Michael's lips. Sam had to grab Dean to stop him from lurching forward when Cas' back bowed on the bed, and light streamed from around him before suddenly, his magnificent, black feathered wings appeared strewn across the bed at odd angles. Dean exhaled in shock. Cas' wings—you could tell that they had once been magnificent, and they were still beautiful; but they were twisted, and broken. The feathers were downright mangled in places.
Michael sighed mournfully before moving forward, reaching with both hands, and sinking them into Cas' feathers. "Dean, Sam, cover your eyes," he ordered sharply.
When the light died down enough that Dean could look again, Cas was sitting, rumpled but conscious on the bed, wings out of sight again. Michael hadn't moved away from Cas, standing just as close as he had been.
"Michael," Cas murmured in greeting.
"Hello, Castiel," Michael greeted. Then he reached one hand for Cas' perpetually mussed hair, and dragged a hand through it—a gentle grooming. For some reason, Dean got the feeling that the hair on Cas' head was just a substitute for Cas' wings, which Michael would be slowly grooming if he could.
"My Grace," Cas said softly. "You've restored it."
"I'm reinstating you," Michael declared. "And if Raphael wants to fight about it, he can come and find me. You are to watch my vessel. Aid him as he works to prevent the apocalypse—I have things to do in Heaven."
"Raphael?" Dean asked.
"Yes," Michael agreed. "Raphael has become something of a problem."
"He told Cas and I that God was dead," Dean said. Michael's expression broke.
"I've failed all of my brothers. Too many times." He soothingly ran another hand along Cas' hairline. "I'm going to fix this. I'll fix Lucifer, and I'll fix Raphael, and I'll fix Gabriel. And then when they're fixed—home, and safe and where they belong—I'll fix the rest of the host. I've been ignoring the problem for far too long."
"Why, though?" Dean asked curiously. "You had to know that they were planning this. If you really wanted to avoid it happening, wouldn't it have been easier to stop it earlier?" He had moved forward without giving his legs permission to do so, framing Cas' pale-but-conscious form. Cas leaned towards him, ever-so-slightly.
"The reasons are... numerous. Raphael was very enthusiastic about the prospect of the apocalypse. It shocked me, really. I thought... I thought that if Father really didn't want it to happen, maybe He would come back. Maybe He would stop it."
Dean made a face at yet another parallel between him and Michael. Michael, who just wanted his family back.
"So you were trying to lure God home?" Sam asked, skirting forward cautiously.
"Something to that effect, yes. I just miss my Father, Dean. That's all. I understand that you don't think much of me—and I even understand why. The fact that I keep reminding you of yourself is simply extra, since you spend most of your time and energy hating everything about yourself, so why should you feel any differently about me? But I can fix this, Dean."
"Can you?" Dean's tone was rough as he looked Michael in the eye. Nothing of the man that his father had been before his mother burned on the ceiling of the nursery remained in his eye, so Dean did not have difficulty differentiating between Michael and his father.
Fact was, this version of John Winchester, past!John, was nothing like the father that he had ever known, so all that Dean needed to do was create another, third slot for seeing his father. Past!John, Dad!John, and now, Michael!John. Not difficult to tell the difference.
"Yes, I can. And the earth will not be destroyed in the process."
"So, what's your plan for Lucifer, then?" Dean demanded shortly. "Family therapy to cure his crippling case of psychosis?"
"Eventually, yes," Michael said. "Something like that. If I can get Gabriel to come home and Raphael to agree to help me, together the three of us will be powerful enough to contain Lucifer somewhere less... permanent than the Cage. That is, of course, if Sam continues to refuse him."
Sam made a face. "Now you want me to let Lucifer take a ride in my skin?" Sam demanded. "If him not having his true vessel gives you an advantage, I thought you would be all for me telling him to take a hike."
Michael snorted. "My brother... is prideful. Arrogant. He knows, but he doesn't know."
"What do you mean?"
"An archangel and their true vessel, Sam. It isn't just any, regular old union. It is... far, far more powerful. If you say yes to him—if your brother says yes to me," he interjected wryly, eyeing Dean from the side, "your soul and his Grace will... fuse together. You will actually become one. And you certainly won't lose control of your body. It's more as if you will gain his knowledge, his memories and his powers. But you'll still be at the forefront. Sort of. And if your desire to save the world is as strong as his desire to end it, he won't want to end it anymore. It will make rehabilitating him a lot easier."
"Hang on," Dean said, pushing into Michael's space. "So, when you ask me to be your vessel, you're really asking me to fuse my soul to your Grace."
"Yes," Michael said matter-of-factly. "It is likely that neither of us will come out of the union unchanged. You are a part of me. I am a part of you. All you are agreeing to is to fill the part of you that you always knew was missing, even though you never knew why."
Dean choked on nothing.
"Do take your time, and consider all the variables," Michael added. "I have had all of eternity to know that one day, my true vessel would be born, and to understand exactly what that would mean. You, on the other hand, have had little time to come to terms with the idea. Though, the idea of being in love with Castiel is something that I hadn't considered."
Dean inhaled sharply, and Cas blinked up at him like some sort of baby bird. "What does that mean?" Dean demanded.
Michael rolled his eyes. "It means that your feelings for Castiel are strong enough that when we merge, they will overpower me as well. We will, after all, become one."
"When," Dean snapped. "You just told me to think it through, and now you're sure that it's an inevitability? I told Zachariah, and I'll tell you. I don't believe in destiny. Why didn't Zachariah tell me, though? That I would be... merging with you?"
"Zachariah is not an archangel, and he does not know the inner workings of the union between one of us and their true vessel."
"Gabriel, then. Why didn't he tell us?"
"Dude," Sam interjected. "Because Gabriel gets off on messing with us? Don't you remember the thing with my laptop, and the porn and the Impala?"
Dean snorted loudly. "Liked him, back then. Uncomplicated. That trickster had style. Cas, what do you think?"
Cas' eyes were wide, almost stunned. "I love you, Dean. I want you to do whatever makes you, you. I defied everything for you. I rebelled for you, because all that you wanted was to stop the apocalypse. If this will stop the apocalypse and you feel that you must do it, then you should. If you don't want to, then don't."
Dean's eyes—big green Disney Princess pools that they were—went sort of soft and big and watery. "You love me?"
"Of course," Cas said, as if it were an undeniable and inevitable fact of life.
Sam made a face, stepped forward and elbowed Michael out of the way. The archangel gave him a questioning glance, and Sam shook his head. "This is delicate," he explained quietly. "It needs to be handled in exactly the right way."
Then he reached out, grabbed his older brother by the back of the neck, and yanked him down towards Cas. In the same motion, his other hand hooked over the back of Cas' head, tilted it up to be in the right position, and smushed their lips together.
There was a muffled indignant sound from Dean, and then, satisfied, Sam stepped back to give them space with a smirk on his lips. The kiss opened and deepened, and ended with Dean straddling Cas' lap on the bed with a hand anchored at the nape of the angel's neck, the other pushed under his trench coat. One of Cas' hands had pushed itself up Dean's back, under his jacket and layers of shirts, the other holding his hip in place.
Sam dusted his hands together. "My work here is done," he said triumphantly.
"You really are like Lucifer," Michael said wistfully. "Like he used to be, before he was poisoned by hatred and pride."
"Look, even with the apocalypse—I don't know how I feel about having the devil in my head," Sam said.
"You were going to say yes to him. You were always going to, Sam. In every possible future, you say yes. Usually in Detroit, for some reason, but in some timelines it was different. In some, you said yes, but didn't properly merge with him, but then managed to wrest control back over your body and jump the both of you into the Cage. In some, you pulled me in with you. In some, you just... broke. You couldn't watch it anymore, all of the death and dying, so you broke so that you wouldn't have to anymore. There are several timelines where Dean continues to refuse me, but none where you manage to refuse him.
"This is the only option where you have what you should have with him. Like I said, archangel and true vessel—they're meant to be together, Sam. My brother is a piece of you that you never knew was missing, and until you say yes to him, you will never be fully complete."
"And if I do, then, what? He gets mellower, and I become a bit more of a ball of rage, hopefully without homicidal tendencies? It seems dangerous."
"The state that Lucifer is in now is dangerous, Sam. You should help him. Please, help him."
"Is that what Gabriel wanted? When he was telling us to say yes? Did he want us to help you and Lucifer?"
Michael snorted. "Perhaps. Gabriel is always playing several games at once, you'll find. Get the violence over with, avoid it entirely—either way, Gabriel gets what he wants, ultimately—everything is over. He's become very adept at constructing scenarios that he wins in as many possible outcomes as he can."
"And if we continue to say 'no'—if we ignore what he told us to do, the worst that happens is that the fighting is postponed."
"How many times did you say that you've met my brother? Because that was a stunningly accurate assessment of his character."
"Three times now," Sam said. "Unless he's been messing with us some more in the background. But he's not exactly subtle, so I think that we would've noticed. There was a thing with porn... yeah. But, speaking of porn," he added loudly. "If you two take anymore clothes off, this'll get strange, even by our standards."
Dean whined in protest, but pulled his now kiss-swollen lips from Cas'. Both of them were panting heavily, Cas' layers of coats removed, and his shirt unbuttoned entirely, tie undone and draped around his neck. Dean had lost his leather jacket and his pullover, his t-shirt shoved up his back for Cas' exploring hands. Both human and angel was bearing the beginnings of what promised to be some very visible love-marks on the hollows of their throats and necks.
"Take us back, now?" Sam asked Michael, before Dean and Cas could get carried away again. Suddenly, with a blink, they were standing in the motel room that they had left from, Dean and Cas in exactly the same position that they had been except on a different bed. Michael crossed to them, laid one hand on Dean's face.
"Think about it," he murmured. "Think about your options. You know how to pray when you're ready."
Then he was gone.
"That was unexpected," Dean announced, hauling himself out of Cas' lap.
"What do we do now?" Sam asked heavily, sitting on the side of the other bed. "This changes... everything."
"I don't know that we can take his word for it, either," Dean finally said. "It seemed like he was telling the truth, but I'm not about to gamble the world on it—maybe the whole thing was a lie orchestrated to get us to say yes, and shoved into a position that means we can't do anything about it, then Michael and Lucifer can have their showdown and we can't lift a finger to stop them. Cas?"
"I don't know," Castiel murmured. "He did restore my Grace and my connection to heaven. And I don't exactly understand the union between an archangel and their true vessel—that much is very true. Only archangels would understand that."
Sam swore softly. "Gabriel," he muttered.
"We need to talk to Gabriel about this. If archangels are the only ones that understand—well, we've just talked to Michael—it's unlikely that he'll tell us anything different. Chances are that Lucifer wouldn't tell us jack shit, even if he was in the mood to cooperate. That means that we need to talk to either Raphael or Gabriel, and Gabriel might not like us, but he's far less likely to jump on the 'smite first, ask questions later' train."
Dean sighed heavily. "Fine. Gabriel it is. How do we even find him, though? Somehow, I doubt we can just pray and have him come running."
"We can start looking up stuff that might be trickster retribution," Sam suggested. "Even if we find a different trickster, they might be able to lead us to Gabriel."
"If Gabriel is even still playing trickster," Dean countered. "He might not be bothering right about now, what with the apocalypse right around the corner. I got the sense that the only reason that he pulled that Incredible Hulk thing to begin with was to lure us into town. He's still an angel, after all, and what with Cas' little art project on our ribcages, he can't find us any better than his brothers can. Besides, he must have a name. Whatever he was using when he was a trickster. I doubt he told the other pagans that he's the archangel Gabriel. Maybe we can summon him with that."
With no other option, they hit the books. Pagan gods of all pantheons, with a focus on tricksters; of course. Finally, though, they managed to fit some of the pieces together. Gabriel had a pretty specific style, after all, and he wasn't that difficult to track. They were fairly certain that he was Loki. That decided, they started looking up circles and confinement for pagan summoning rituals.
There was no pagan circle that would confine an archangel, but frankly, if they ended up with Gabriel, they didn't really need him confined. The worry was that, on the off-chance that they were wrong about Gabriel's pagan name, they may end up with a PO'ed pagan trickster that wanted to flatten them. Always unfortunate.
It turned out, they were right about Gabriel's identity. Not that Gabriel was happy, to find himself in the middle of a pagan summoning ritual, but he was definitely Gabriel.
"You two," Gabriel snapped, stepping over the lines on the floor as if they were nothing. "Are idiots of the highest degree. Why didn't you stop them, Castiel?"
Cas shrugged. "Their reasons for wanting to speak with you are sound," he said.
"He was too addled by all the making out that him and Dean have been doing to have a brain," Sam quipped irritably. "Look, we just talked to Michael. We need..." Sam trailed off.
"You talked to Michael?" Gabriel demanded incredulously. "Michael, my older brother? And you've still got eyes, Samsquatch?"
"Yeah, we were... time travelling," Dean said. "Long story, don't ask—and he used our father as a vessel to talk to us. Sort of... awkward, really. Oh, by the way—heads up, he mentioned you. He seemed really torn up about it, too. Started waxing poetic about how he'd failed all of you, how Raphael had gone all... wrong, and Lucifer was Lucifer, and he had locked him in the Cage and questioned it ever since, and how you had run away and he hadn't heard from you since."
"Sorry, Dean-o, did you just say that Michael questioned locking Lucifer up in the Cage?" Gabriel demanded disbelievingly. "Michael is the perfect son. He doesn't question anything."
"You said that I was his vessel because we were alike," Dean said. "You know, older son, always dutiful to daddy, all that—you know when I questioned my dad? When he told me to do something that might get Sammy hurt."
"Well, okay, but—"
"And you know what else?" Sam interjected. "He told us some... interesting things. About archangels. And their true vessels. Things that Cas can't confirm for us—things that we needed an archangel to confirm."
"Yeah," Dean agreed, stepping forward. "Something about fusing soul and Grace together. Also, Michael is apparently uninterested in the apocalypse. Thought you ought to know. But he thinks that he'll need your help."
"It was the truth," Gabriel sighed. "He's telling the truth. At least about the bond between archangel and true vessel."
"So why didn't you tell us?"
"Would you have believed me?" Gabriel asked wryly.
"Well, no," Sam admitted. "But it would have put us on the right track. So that's why you want us to say yes so badly."
"I just want my brothers back, Sam!" Gabriel's wall of genial, taunting trickster had collapsed far more easily than it had in TV Land, dropping him back into that broken, bitter, faithless, jaded, glitteringly angry archangel, whose power nobody could doubt—Gabriel, okay? They call me Gabriel—shone through his golden, sunlight-through-whiskey coloured eyes. Both Winchesters shuddered. Because millennia cut off from heaven hadn't seemed to erase Gabriel's power, or his gravity.
"You know, Michael said basically the same thing," Dean offered. "About wanting his family back. Apparently," and here, Dean snorted loudly, "he only let the whole apocalypse thing happen because he was hoping that it would make God come home and stop it. That didn't work out so well for him, I'm gathering."
"Call him," Gabriel ordered flatly.
"If you pray to him, he'll come. Tell him that I need to talk to him. Tell him that if he wants his baby brother to come home, he's going to have to level with me, because I'm not blindly obeying anyone, not anymore. Not him, and not Father. Not Raphael, either."
"I'm not calling him until I'm ready to say yes to him," Dean snapped. "He isn't our errand boy—you want to talk to him, buck up, grow a pair, and go home, Gabriel. He might not be able to find you, but you know where to find him. He wants to see you."
"Then when? It's the apocalypse, Gabriel. He needs your help. He needs you to help him talk Raphael into fixing this mess, since you're basically the only freaking sane archangel that there is. Sadly. That doesn't say much about archangels, does it?"
"You say that you want your family back, Gabriel. You've got to do some work, too," Sam added, more gently than Dean had demanded. "You can talk to Michael. Even if I never say yes to Lucifer, and Dean never says yes to Michael, you can go and talk to him. Even if the world ends tomorrow, wouldn't you be happier knowing that you had at least tried?"
Gabriel pouted. There was no other word for the expression on his face, and it was kind of unnerving, given the raw, unadulterated power and rage that had been in his expression just moments before. "I don't see why he can't come to me."
"Because you're still hiding from him?" Sam pointed out, that gentleness still wafting through his tone. Dean snorted.
"Dude, because you're the one that left. You ran away. They've thought that you were dead, or worse for thousands of years, while you were off drinking wine and having fun with pagans. You owe it to him, and to Raphael—because dude might be a giant douche, but you still left—to go back and make the first move."
"They didn't even try to find me!" Gabriel's tone was broken, twisted. "I left because Raphael was going all brutal, and after Michael put Lucifer in the Cage, he was like this broken, empty shell. I left, and none of them chased after me. It probably took Michael and Raphael five-hundred years to stop squabbling long enough to realize that I was gone. Michael's sorry now, but he wasn't then."
"You know what I've learnt in the past few days?" Dean asked as he sat down next to Cas on the end of the motel bed. "Despite the whole human/archangel thing, our families are actually disturbingly alike. So you know why Michael didn't chase after you when you left? Probably because he wanted to give you space, and give you a chance to figure out who you wanted to be. He was probably grateful that your little 'rebellion' wasn't anywhere near as bad as Lucifer's."
"How do you know?" Gabriel sounded almost fragile, looking at Dean—a living avatar of his big brother—with hopeful, childlike eyes.
"Sammy left," Dean's explanation was short and sweet. "I checked up on him. A lot. He never saw me, cause I didn't want to screw up his shot at normal."
"I never—" Sam broke off, staring at his brother like Dean had just announced his intention to give up hunting, sell the Impala in favour of a station wagon, and open up a bridal store in Kentucky. "I never knew that."
"What, did you think I wasn't worried about you? That little domestic-ville apartment didn't even have salt lines, Sammy. You and Jess could've gotten... well," Dean trailed off and coughed awkwardly.
"Yeah," Sam muttered, equally awkwardly.
"Michael doesn't want to fight Lucifer?" Gabriel clarified.
"It really didn't sound like it," Dean said, shrugging.
"They might fight anyway," Gabriel muttered. "Since they're both so stubborn and mad at each other."
Sam straightened. "They won't fight if they can't fight," he realized aloud.
"When we figured out what you were, what did we do?" Sam asked.
"Holy fire," Gabriel breathed slowly. "We lure them here—Dean, you'll have to say yes to Michael, he has no other vessel, and you don't want him to take another one—if he takes someone who isn't his true vessel, they'll burn up—we trap them."
"In separate circles of holy fire," Sam continued. "Trap them next to each other, and tell them that under no uncertain terms are they getting out until they've damn well worked this out."
"Samsquatch, you're brilliant," Gabriel declared. "They'll come, for you two. Dean, if you pray to Michael and tell him that you're ready, he'll be here in a hot minute. And Luci's an angel too, he can hear prayers just as well as any of us."
It was funny, really, that the grand plan for stopping the apocalypse involved the one thing that the brothers had been in agreement on from the beginning that they must never, ever do. Dean felt oddly numb as he cradled Cas' fingers between his. He and Cas may not have acknowledged their feelings for each other before now, but now that they had, there was no awkwardness. Sam and Gabriel were standing opposite each other on the massive, out-of-the-way field that they had decided on for location, both of them spreading holy oil in circular formations and pacing length, trying to decide on the right size for the circles of oil, and how far apart they should be—far enough that if either archangel decided to get smite-y, they wouldn't be able to reach each other, but close enough that they could talk without shouting.
"What about Raphael?"
Dean snorted. "Please. After what me and Cas pulled on Raphael? He's not likely to fall for the same trick twice. Besides, if we decide that we need him, Gabriel can go and find him, right?"
"Sounds right," Gabriel agreed. "Let's get this show on the road. We've got to time this exactly right—because they have to arrive at the same time, or else the one that arrives second will sense the other's presence here, and then they'll both be expecting us to pull this. It's going to take a lot for me to suppress my Grace enough that they don't realize that I'm, well, me, as it is."
Dean stood, and crossed to one of the circles of oil, stepped into the centre of it. Sam had done the same, and the brothers that had been together through thick and thin—heaven, hell and everything in between—shared a loaded glance, eyes meeting across the distance.
Then Dean's eyes slid closed, unable to look at Sammy while he did this—there were so many ways that this plan could go wrong, and even if it went right, he'd never be the same. He was merging his soul with an archangel here, tying himself to a being of immense power.
"Go, boys," Gabriel ordered. He was standing with a lighter on the outside of Sam's circle—they'd decided that ultimately, whether Sam said 'yes' to Lucifer or not—Dean was voting for not, but Gabriel and Sam both thought that he might have to—it would be best to have him trapped in the fire with Lucifer. Cas was poised behind Dean, ready to light his circle as well.
Michael? Dean thought, trying to give the impression that he was speaking to something. I'm ready.
It was working. He was surrounded by light, pulsing around him, twisting in every shape and form. He cracked his eyelids open.
You have to say it, Dean. Michael's tone was endlessly patient and echoing, otherworldly and powerful and beautiful and his.
"Cas!" he hollered over his shoulder in warning.
"Dean," Cas' tone was desperate and pained, but Dean paid it no mind. He couldn't.
"Yes," he said firmly to Michael. He knew that Cas had heard his queue, but he didn't hear the click of the lighter or the whooshing sound of the fire lighting—he was too caught up in the feeling of that light surging into him, wrapping around him on the inside out. He reached to meet it, twining tightly with Michael.
This was more whole than he could ever remember being, even before hell. Even before Sammy had left for Stanford, leaving Dean with hollow doubts of everything that his childhood had been made of—the road, and Baby and Sam and Dad, stretching for miles between motels and diners and evil that they had put down. He was complete, pieces of him that he had never realized were missing were soldering themselves to his soul.
He could remember all of eternity, obeying his Father, loving his brothers—raising his brothers. And it still hadn't been enough. Sammy was okay, because Sammy was his brother, and so were Lucifer and Raphael and Gabriel. It wasn't Michael anymore—it was him. He was Dean Winchester. He was Michael. He loved them, so much, and he was tired of being the good son, especially when it hadn't ever done him or anyone else any good.
"Cas?" He whirled in the circle, aware that he was trapped because he was still Dean, and Dean was the one who had helped trap him. "Cas."
"Michael." Cas looked pained, worried, anxious.
"Dean. I'm still Dean, Cas. To you, anyway." To the Host—especially extreme idiots like Zachariah—honestly, what was that seraph thinking, threatening Michael's true vessel like that? The part of him that was Dean was outraged all over again over the way that Zachariah had hurt Sammy, while the part of him that was Michael was outraged at the way that Zachariah had treated him, before Dean agreed to be a part of him—he'd have to be all Michael, all Commander of Heaven. Especially given the demonic fallout from this after they managed to stop the apocalypse.
"Gabriel." The Michael part—the part that had missed his baby brother, damnit, whirled on Gabriel quickly.
"Hey, Mike," Gabriel greeted quietly. "Luce."
His head snapped up, and he laid eyes on Lucifer through two circles of holy fire for the first time in thousands of years. Lucifer was a ball of pent-up, whirling rage and twisted, broken Grace, fighting against the bonds of a vessel that didn't fit properly, Lucifer's true form folding up at awkward, painful looking angles inside of the man called Nick.
Sam had him half bent over with one arm twisted behind his back. "Would you just calm down," Sam was snapping at the raging archangel—who, Dean noticed, for all of his rage and power, had done absolutely nothing to harm Sam—as he attempted to restrain him.
It was absolutely the stupidest thing that Sam had ever attempted—and Sammy had attempted some incredibly stupid stunts when he was a rebellious teenager—restraining an archangel. He was even more cognizant of this now that he was one.
"Seriously, Luci, Samsquatch has a point," Gabriel drawled, pacing languidly around the circles of fire. "It's holy fire, and fallen or not, you can't cross it anymore than Mike can. You're stuck here, bro. And Castiel and I aren't about to let either of you out until you've figured this out without taking out a planet full of innocent bystanders."
"Good," Dean-Michael—whoever he was now, he had time for an identity crisis later—said quietly.
"Dean-o? You still in there?"
"Yeah," Dean answered. "Mostly. Sort of. Just with a bit more... perspective, shall we say? But I'm definitely still here. Cas?"
This time, Dean heard the click-and-swoosh as the oil that Cas had draped around Gabriel lit up.
"Hey! I'm trying to stop the apocalypse, you ungrateful little twerps!" Gabriel howled. "What is this for? What is it with you freaking Winchesters?"
"You're a flight risk, too, Gabriel," Dean said, smirking. "And we've got things to talk about.
Then, rather abruptly, Sam released Lucifer from the hold on his arm, and before anyone could even predict what he was about to do, took a running start and leaped over the flames of the circle, landing neatly and agilely on the other side. "So, this has been fun," Sam said, smirking at the dumbfounded looks. "But I'm not an angel. And standing in that circle of fire was starting to get hot, so... you guys have fun bickering about your family issues worthy of Doctor Phil, and Cas and I are going to get coffee."
"Sammy!" Dean shrieked. "You little traitor. I'm going end you! If you think that the Nair in your shampoo was bad, just you wait!"
"Forgive me if I don't exactly find you fear inspiring at the moment, Dean," Sam said. "Given the... holy fire situation."
"Bitch! Get your ass back here!"
"Jerk!" Sam hollered back as he backed away. He wrapped one hand around Cas' forearm as he went by. "Seriously, come on, let's get coffee."
Cas was nodding in agreement. "I require no sustenance, Sam, but I agree that we should give them some privacy."
"Sam!" Lucifer sounded... pleading. "Don't leave me here!"
"Sorry, Luce," Sam called—considerably more gently than he'd been yelling at Dean. "I'll be back, I promise." Like he was soothing a child. Clearly, Sam and Lucifer had been doing some bonding in Sam's dreams. The little liar. "Dean, just call me if you need me to do that thing." Seeing his brother fine and intact had clearly done wonders for Sam's hesitation on the subject of agreeing to be Lucifer's vessel. The part that was Dean, the part that had sold his soul for his brother, the part that raged to protect him, warred violently against the part that was Michael, that wanted to save Lucifer from himself. They finally meshed together in agreement that perhaps, Sam saying 'yes' would, indeed be the best solution for all. Including his developing migraine.
Then Cas took them away, and Dean humphed in frustration. "Serves you right," Gabriel snapped.
"Shut up, you don't get to talk," Dean snapped back petulantly.
"Where is Raphael?" Lucifer demanded.
"Not here. Figured we'd be better dealing with him later. If we ever get out of here," Gabriel griped. "This was not part of the plan, you moron."
"Oh, it was," Dean corrected mildly. Michael felt very proud that his vessel had managed to come up with such a tactically sound plan. "It was just the part that Sam, Cas and I neglected to inform you of. Seriously, after fucking TV Land, you were fucking asking for it."
"Oh, don't whine, Sam got the worst of it."
Dean couldn't argue with that. Between Nutcracker, genital herpes and Sampala, plus the whole mess at Mystery Spot that Dean had basically no memory of, Sam's experiences with Gabriel's trickster alter-ego were far more traumatizing than any of Dean's had been.
"What's this about TV Land?" Lucifer asked mildly.
"Well, Luce, baby brother's been playing pagan trickster for a couple thousand years," Dean muttered. "And he likes to mess with me and Sam."
"Please, you two were so damn easy, I didn't even have to do that much," Gabriel said loudly. "Predictable. Touch the laptop, Sam gets huffy. Touch the car, and you're ready to knock him unconscious with a crowbar. You do know that your car is an inanimate object, right?"
"Baby," Dean just couldn't help himself. "She's my baby, and touch her again, Gabriel, and you're going to get it."
"Yeah, yeah, fine. No more slashed tires, no more stuffing Sam's consciousness into the radio. Got it."
"You stuffed my vessel's consciousness into a radio?" Lucifer sounded incredibly offended.
"It was all part of an incredibly genius and convoluted plan," Gabriel said. "To end the apocalypse without letting those two bozos figure out that that was what my goal was, specially since they'd never have believed me anyway. It was... well. They believed Michael, but not me."
"You didn't tell us!" Dean yelled.
"Yeah. Didn't tell you. Cause you wouldn't have believed me, and you know it. But it worked, didn't it? Or, at this point, half worked. The other half is still in progress."
Dean—all Dean, now, Michael-part sort of sidelined. "You leave Sam be, Gabriel. If he wants to play this game, he walks into it with his eyes wide open. No tricks. No games. No threatening to make him tour procedural cops shows for the rest of his freaking life."
"He's going to do it," Gabriel said seriously, eyes locked on his.
"I know," Dean accepted.
"Do what?" Lucifer demanded.
"Say 'yes' to you. But first, we need to have a conversation."
Lucifer promptly had a huge meltdown. Several trees within the vicinity were reduced to little piles of ash on the ground. "Okay, one of you is going to tell me what is going on. Right now," he snarled, straightening up.
"It's like this," Gabriel said. "I couldn't watch everything that was happening, so I ran away from home."
"You left us," Dean-Michael snapped, hurt and pain and abandonment warring with understanding that he hadn't felt when he had just been speaking to Dean—because when Dean had been spending his time watching Sam and John go at it—throwing everything that they knew would hurt at each other, Dean had wanted to run and hide, too. Michael had resented Gabriel for running for thousands of years, but now he had an inkling of understanding as to why he had done it. He didn't really like the feeling.
Gabriel just glared at him fiercely.
"I'm sorry," he added quietly.
"You didn't even look for me," Gabriel accused quietly.
"What do you want from me, Gabriel? One minute you're mad because I'm hurt that you left, the next you're mad because I let you go! You were determined to leave and I didn't want to damage you any further—would you have had me stop you?"
Glaring petulantly, Gabriel dropped to the ground, literally collapsing into a cross-legged position and balancing his elbows on his knees. "Yes. No. I don't know, Mike, I thought that you didn't care about me!"
Anguish ran through him. He had thought that maybe, just maybe, Gabriel had managed to escape before he had managed to fail as a brother. That perhaps Gabriel was the brother that he hadn't destroyed beyond all recognition—but no. Gabriel was just as broken as Lucifer and Raphael.
"And you, Mike." Gabriel's eyes were compassionate again. "You're broken too, and it isn't your fault. It wasn't on you to fix us, Michael, it was Dad, and he's the one responsible for us. Including you."
"Oh, yes, Michael." Lucifer's tone was halfway between mocking and ranting. "The entire universe is on your shoulders, and you blame yourself for everything, ever. That's just typical, isn't it? It's all about what you think, and what you want, and what you blame yourself for! What about what I want?"
"You don't get a vote as long as you're planning on wiping out an entire race of sentient, self-aware beings," Gabriel snapped. "Lucifer, you're my brother and I love you, but you are a massive bag of dicks."
"What did you just call me, Gabriel?"
"A great big bag of dicks," Gabriel repeated, glaring hard.
"You sided with Michael."
"I wasn't going to side with either of you!" Gabriel shrieked. "I'm helping Michael because Michael wants to stop this freaking dog and pony show! What the hell happened to free will, Lucifer? You made a choice, you disobeyed—that must mean that you have it, right? But you're just following the fucking script like a good little soldier—you're doing it better than Michael! And Michael's supposed to be the good son!"
Michael and Lucifer both snarled in protest, and Gabriel smirked. "Oh, that gets you going, does it?"
"You don't appear all that irritated to be trapped, Michael," Lucifer snapped. "One might argue that you helped plan it."
"I did, but I didn't, and I can't be angry with myself," Michael explained. "Sam and Gabriel and Castiel, yes... I'm in love with Castiel." The part of him that was Dean, that had been in love with Cas for a very long time even though he hadn't consciously acknowledged it, didn't find this to be at all mind-altering. The Michael part was... still adjusting to the idea. He blinked, shocked.
Gabriel snickered. "Oh, please. The soulful glances. The random confessions. And let me tell you, it really isn't fair to flirt with him when he doesn't get that's what you're doing. You brought him to a brothel, Dean."
"Shut up. And how do you know about that?"
"Hang on, you've been reading Chuck's stuff now?"
"Yep! Let me tell you, it's very interesting reading."
"Shut up. I want to wring his freaking neck," Dean snarled. "Seriously, Becky..." he shuddered. "That girl is creepy. And she isn't even my fan—she's obsessed with Sam."
"What's this about the prophet?" Lucifer looked interested despite himself.
"He's been publishing the Winchesters' lives," Gabriel said, snickering. "As a series of novels that involve porn, humour and horror. They aren't very well-known, but the fans that they do have are incredibly devoted."
Dean winced. "Oh," he realized, standing straighter.
"Chuck said that they had the funding to start publishing again because of a Scandinavian investor," Dean muttered.
Gabriel smirked. "Penny in the air."
"And the penny drops. What? They're the gospels, bro! They're meant to be read."
"That's my life! My thoughts and feelings, and damnit, that sex scene with Cassie was full-frontal! I feel violated! Chuck's been watching me have sex! Chuck's been writing bad narratives of me having sex!"
"Gospels," Gabriel said sagely.
"You're lucky that we're both trapped in holy fire, Gabriel! When I get my hands on you—"
"That's funny," Lucifer sounded mildly surprised by the realization.
"Yeah? Wait till you end up front-and-centre bad guy," Dean shot back. "You probably won't find it very amusing then."
"I dunno, that Mystery Spot one..."
"What does that mean?" Lucifer was clearly incredibly frustrated that they kept talking about things that he didn't understand.
"I've been front-and-centre bad guy in the Winchester gospels a few times myself," Gabriel drawled. "It's fun, seriously. They get all whiny and angsty, and there's homo-erotic subtext. Even more once Castiel turned up. And now this one's finally yanked his head out of his ass, it isn't subtext anymore. Oooh, Chuck's gonna have fun with that vision."
"Hey, maybe that'll get him to stop publishing," Dean suggested mildly.
"Yeah, right. You might as well just accept it." He made a face, and dropped down into a seated position like Gabriel. There was no point in standing and pacing, after all—their issues were extensive enough that they'd probably be here for awhile.
"Did you want me to chase you?" He asked Gabriel gently.
"Well... no. Yes. Maybe."
"That about covers it," Michael said mildly, playing older-and-wiser big brother. "Which one is it?"
"I don't know! Maybe I wanted you to look, but I didn't actually want you to find me!" Gabriel wailed.
"You were broken, Gabriel. You wanted to leave, and if I'd found you, I would have stopped you, and you would've resented me for it. I thought it was best to just let you go. I'll confess that for the first few centuries, I kept trying to delude myself into thinking that you'd wander on home when you were ready."
"You... I'm sorry," Gabriel sounded defeated.
"I'm sorry too. That we drove you to running in the first place. Just... Gabriel?"
"Will you come home, now?"
"Yeah," his baby brother said quietly, dragging his knees up to his chest like a child and burying his face in them. "Yeah, I'll come home. Can't promise that I'll stay all the time, but I'll come home."
"Thank you," he said.
"Oh, this is just gorgeous," Lucifer griped.
"If you're not going to say anything useful, Luce, don't say anything at all," Gabriel snapped. "You know what? I'm not on either of your sides. Fucking apocalypse."
"Oh, really? Because you've done an excellent job of staying out of it, baby brother," Lucifer snapped, spreading his hands to gesture at their surroundings—three separate angel-prisons, all containing archangels.
"Shut up," Gabriel snarled, rocking to his feet. "Just because I'm not on anyone's side doesn't mean that I'll stay out of it. I swear to Dad that if you two don't quit the fighting, I'll spear the both of you myself."
"Good," Dean declared loudly.
"Why, though? If you refuse to side with either of us, what's the point?"
"I'm not fighting for you, and I'm not fighting for him. I'm doing this for people, Lucifer. People. All their messy choices and emotions and blood and war and love. All the things that Dad loves about humans, Luce—he's right. They are better than us."
"They're flawed! They're abortions of existence, they're broken and twisted and flawed, and Father wanted us to love them more than him?"
Dean stared, slightly in awe as Gabriel left them both without a doubt as to his power. "Why, because they aren't perfectly obedient, like us? How much is it worth that we love Dad, Lucifer? How much is it worth to Him, and how much is it worth to us? We've never had a choice. We just... are. We're like Daddy's fucking cheering section. They have a choice. And they love. They love and laugh and sing and dance. There's fear and sorrow and so much beauty, Lucifer, it would make you cry if only you could see it. But you refuse. You will never freaking learn!"
"He's right, Lucifer. They are better than us."
"I never thought that you would say such a thing, Michael."
"I've lived the last thirty years of my life as a human, Lucifer," Dean sighed. "It... changes a person. Sam will change you. You'll change Sam."
"So says the man who said yes all of fifteen minutes ago," Gabriel muttered. "What are you, some sort of expert, now?"
"I don't see you volunteering information."
"It... I don't... remember," Gabriel trailed off lamely. "It was a really long time ago. I don't remember being any other way."
"What about Raphael?" Lucifer was the one who had asked the question.
"What about him? If you weren't playing the disobedience game, Raphael would probably side with you," Michael sighed. "He's... I think that it would disturb even you, Lucifer, to see our brother like that."
"What's wrong with him?"
Gabriel snorted loudly. "He hates everything and is running around telling people that Dad is dead."
"He's a nihilist who blows people up," Dean added, huffing.
"Raphael is a healer," Lucifer declared flatly, eyeing them both like he was waiting for a punch line. "He doesn't do harm."
"He's... he's gone really, really wrong, Lucifer," Dean said hesitantly. "I barely recognize him anymore. With you, I think that a part of me saw it coming. You were always pushing the limits, playing games. You refused to love humans, or, well, anyone, really, except for Father and yourself. It wasn't... completely out of character, at any rate. Raphael... he's just, changed."
"We don't change," Lucifer said.
"We do," Gabriel corrected mildly. "I'm different. I don't know if you remember Cassie from when he was a baby-angel, but he's different now. It takes a long time, Lucifer, but we do change. You could change. If you wanted."
"I don't know," Lucifer muttered.
"We need Sam," Gabriel commented. "If he's done with his... non-fat-extra-hot-half-sweet-no-whip-sugar-free latte."
"I told you, Gabriel, leave him—is that seriously what he ordered?"
"That's... incredibly pathetic."
"He fed it to your baby-angel boyfriend, too," Gabriel said happily. "And Cas likes it, so good luck getting him back onto manly straight black java."
"Fucking Sam and his fucking girly drinks," Dean muttered. "No traps. No tricks."
"I will ask the same of you, Gabriel," Lucifer said sternly. "A coerced vessel is not a vessel at all. Leave him alone."
"Call him, Dean," Gabriel ordered. "Just get him here to talk. That's all."
"Yeah, I'm gonna believe that. After TV Land, and all the other shit that you've pulled over the years?"
"Like I said," Gabriel spread his hands. "I was just trying to get my family back, and I knew that you two could fix things. I figured that you'd never believe or listen to me if I told you the truth, so I played that little game instead. I've got half of what I want now, and the other half will be happening soon. I don't need to coerce Sam. Or threaten him or trick him, or anything else. And you know it. He'll come back here, and he'll say 'yes'. He was ready before—I could see it in his eyes. He bolted out because he wanted it so much that it scared him. It's destiny. It's meant to be."
Snarling in irritation, because Gabriel was right, damn him, Dean yanked his phone from his jacket pocket, flipped it open and angrily stabbed at speed dial two.
"Sammy? Time to come back, now," Dean said as Sam picked up. Sam told him that they were at the Starbucks in the closest town, and that he wanted to walk back to clear his head. Dean made a face. Because Sam was walking back to say yes to Lucifer, and the part that was all Dean still wasn't sure that Sammy should be doing that. The rest of him was sure that it would be fine—great, even. Sam was missing pieces, just like Dean had been, just like Michael had been, just like Lucifer was. Even still, Sam knew what he was walking back here to do, and he needed to clear his head to do it.
"He's on his way," Dean reported, snapping the phone shut and shoving it back into his pocket. Lucifer went all quiet and still and dropped to the ground to sit like his brothers were doing.
"Good, he can let me out," Gabriel grouched.
"Unlikely," Dean declared, smirking.
"This was not part of the plan, guys. There was a plan, remember? This was not part of it."
"Yeah, and if you weren't trapped in that fire, what would have stopped you from winging off the second it started getting heavy?"
"What was that? Didn't quite catch it." Dean taunted.
"Fine! Yes, I probably would have run off," Gabriel muttered, sulking.
"What was the plan?" Lucifer sounded curious. Out of all the things that he could've sounded, curious was fairly harmless.
"Uhhh, trap us both in here until we talked it out," Dean replied. "Sam and I played bait, Cas and Gabriel waited with lighters. When Sam and Gabriel were figuring out the circles and stuff, I had Cas laying an extra one around Gabriel. Simple."
"Curiously simple. What, though, made you agree to this? What makes Sam so ready to agree?"
"There were some details that you neglected to tell Sam, Lucifer." All Michael, now, slight disapproval, but mostly amusement at his younger brother.
"Well he wouldn't have believed me, would he have?" Lucifer sulked. "Nobody ever believes me."
"Your reputation precedes you," Gabriel muttered.
They fell silent, then, three incredibly powerful beings of celestial origin, all crouched in burning circles of holy fire in the middle of a deserted field. Gabriel pulled his knees back up to his chest, looking almost childlike in the way that he curled up. Sighing, Dean rested his forearms on his knees.
Ten minutes later, Sam wandered up the path, looking for all the world like he was on a leisurely stroll through the park. Cas trailed behind him, perpetually confused look on his face. "Sam, I do not understand why—"
"I told you, Cas," Sam interrupted before Cas could say what he didn't understand. "It doesn't matter." Sam was usually pretty patient with Cas' less-than-human attributes, but right now he sounded quite exasperated.
"Dean, would you please explain to him that Starbucks is not voodoo?" Sam sighed.
"Cas, Starbucks is not voodoo," Dean repeated dutifully.
"But the mermaid—"
"It's just a logo, Cas," Dean said, shaking his head.
"Is your baby-angel even real?" Gabriel asked incredulously.
"I am not an infant," Cas said stiffly. Sam and Dean traded glances.
"Oh, Cas, now you've done it. He's never going to stop calling you that," Dean muttered. "Never. Ever."
"This is all very fascinating." Lucifer rolled to his feet. "Really, it is—I've no idea how Starbucks managed to become one of the most powerful and wealthy conglomerates in the world. If there's any evidence that Father has no more interest in this planet, then that's it."
"Coffee's good," Sam said, shrugging, eyes locking with Lucifer's. Lucifer was languid as he paced to the edge of his fire prison.
"I hear that you have something to say to me," he drawled cagily. Dean clenched his teeth, and pushed down the urge to pace a bit himself.
Sam's lips tilted up, just at the corner, and he took a running leap and hurled himself straight back into the circle of holy fire.
"Sam!" Lucifer protested. "You'll just be trapped!"
"No, you'll still be trapped," Sam said. "Go on. Ask me."
Lucifer's expression turned reverent. He crossed to Sam, crowded straight up close to him. "Sam. Will you be my vessel?"
Sam's hand curled around the back of Lucifer's neck, pressing their foreheads close together. "Yes," his tone was quiet, but radiating conviction. Dean knew that it was, in part, for him. A reassurance, because Sam could read him that damn well. The light flooded around them both, more contained because Lucifer was already in a vessel, and then it was over.
The poor shmuck that had previously been Lucifer's vessel collapsed to the ground, leaving Sam standing there, blinking like someone had shone a flashlight in his eyes. "That was... trippy."
Dean snorted loudly. "More, or less than the demon blood?"
"Shut up, jerk."
"Luce!" Gabriel hollered loudly.
"Apocalypse. How're you feeling?" Sam's head tilted, and damn, it was really strange to look at them—both of them. SamandLucifer, LuciferandSam—whichever they were. The expression was still largely Sam's perplexed figuring-things-out look, but different, too.
"Not really into it," he said at last. "I want to rip the wings off some angels and fry them in holy oil, but I doubt that Dean approves."
"Please, if Zachariah's on your list, I'll help you," Dean snapped irritably. "Little shit."
"Top of it," Sam assured him with a weak smile.
"Okay, Cas, get the hose and let us out now," Dean directed. "Leave Gabe in, because he's an annoying little—"
"Michael, if you leave me in here, I'll be forced to have all of my trickster friends stalk your ass for all of eternity," Gabriel said seriously. "Seriously. I know a lot of pagans, and some of them can be very annoying."
That was when Cas managed to drag the hose that they had set up over, and drenched all three archangels in water as he doused the fire. "Seriously, Cas?" Sam demanded, bitchface firmly in place. He threaded a hand through his girly long hair.
"Whine all you want, Sammy," Dean shook the water off, sauntered to Cas' side. "I'm getting laid tonight, I don't care if he dumps the Colorado river on my head."
"That's disgusting," Sam sighed, rolling his eyes. "Would you grow up, please?"
"Sounds boring," Dean stated. "So, nah."
Sure. Michael, and Lucifer—they had thousands of years worth of baggage, their father manipulating them and everything in between. Dean and Sam, though? Dean and Sam took care of each other. And no archangels, no apocalypse—none of that crap was going to change that.