When the hole opened, it was no joyous occasion, no moment of triumph.
It was the middle of the Mojave Desert.
The Cage had been black and warm and empty. Michael's Grace had grown cramped and stiff from disuse, without the Grace of his kin to groom and keep it well, it had become crusted over by the energies of the Cage, and thus he was weak, incredibly weak.
So weak that it was a human that dragged him from the Cage, because he could not, at that moment, do so himself.
So weak his old vessel did not so much as spark when his power was "released".
Of course, a great part of it was due to the sudden bombardment of his Father's creation, of the world. For the Cage had been devoid of his Father's touch, and for so long he had stayed in the dark without it. And that had caused his Grace to falter and fail. And so the world flushed through his entirity.
But he was a twisted, angry creature, now.
Dean pulled him out, and he was still bound to the sword he had worn when he was cast out. The soul was gone now, however, and it would not last long if he recovered to full power.
Dean held him with an air of uncertainty. He could sense that Dean had no intention to become his vessel, and that angered him.
And he was too bright. His soul too good and righteous to ever match the thing that Michael had become.
"Ah, what a celebration to herald my return!" He growled.
"You ok, angel?"
"No. I have been stuck in a cage for a millennium. My father is the one who put me there, and my brother is the reason. And I cannot feel my Grace." He hissed.
Dean nodded. "You want a ride?"
Dean gave him a look.
"Wanna try asking again, nicely?"
Dean lifted him off and set him down but still let him lean heavily upon Dean's shoulders.
"you know, I've been to Hell, too." He says as he settles beside the ArchAngel. Angel. Broken creature.
Michael has been alone too long, however.
He grins at Dean, "And your family abandoned you, have they?"
"Don't talk about them like that, Michael, they've been trying to get you out since forever."
"Oh yes? Lucifer, too?"
"And did your brother care when you threw yourself into Hell, Dean? I doubt it. Spineless, undeserving-"
The face twitched. "Bye, asshole." Dean shoved him off and started walking away. Michael snarled.
"He's a monster, too, Dean, just a warning. He doesn't care. He never did."
It was a lie, of course. The problem had been that he had cared too much, loved God too much. And Michael had loved him too much to have to hurt him.
"Don't talk about Sam like that, jackass. You don't know him."
"Is he a freak?"
Dean halted by one of the rocks, twisted to look at him coldly, "I'm giving you the one warning to stop right there."
Michael is so broken. Too broken.
"I hope he died painfully."
Dean's face twists into something ugly, and there, there is where he and Michael match.
He slams his hand onto something on the rock. Just before the spell blasts him heavenward, Michael sees Dean draw away a bloodied hand with grim satisfaction.
He screams when he hits the boundary of Heaven. Even as an ArchAngel, he feels the exact moment Heaven refuses to accept him. The moment he is hurled from Heaven, he uses what little of his strength he has to hurl himself into the pacific ocean, instead.
He rages beneath the waves, lets the cold drain and leech away his energy but not his fury.
And so of course, when they come for him, he cannot even fight them.
He was strapped down because they wanted to first give his Grace the chance to stretch itself instead of straining it. And he didn't seem too concerned with stopping himself from getting violent.
At regular intervals a human would come in and silently tend his few wounds, as well as dab his vessel with water blessed by Raphael that strengthened his vessel's ability to contain him.
Although it wasn't as if he was currently powerful enough to damage it, anyway.
The human was his only visitor (as whenever Lucifer visited Michael roared himself into a mindless battle for freedom and only ended up making them worry that he would hurt himself trying to use his grace when it so obviously was not there).
He was tall, gentle, wrapped in the soft dull blue silks that shielded the majority of his soul from Michael so that he would not be able to tempt or coerce the boy. After all, he had taken Lucifer's place as the Devil, even if the world - demons included - thought them to be swapped.
He had soft-appearing hair that could only be seen when he bent over Michael and it fell out from behind the hood. it was brown, and long, and Michael wanted to tug on it. He also wanted to make the boy cry or run away.
The seals on the robes could only hid so much. And Michael was angry and hurt and cruel.
"So you were addicted, then?" He couldn't tell what to, but did it matter, in the end?
It was always the same with humans.
The boy almost dropped the bowl in his surprise. Horrified, he took a step back.
Michael grinned, "Did you make a lot of mistakes that you regret? You're probably regretting this, hmm?"
The human suddenly relaxed, and after hesitating another moment, resumed. It annoyed Michael immensely, that he could be ignored. He hissed, and suddenly manages to slide one of his hands out and knocks the bowl out of the boy's hand.
"Quim, do not ignore me." He snarls, grasping one of the boy's wrists.
The human's breath catches, but he doesn't fight Michael, which really just pisses Michael off more. He squeezes.
Suddenly Lucifer appears at the doorway.
"Michael, release him." He says, not without anger.
"Oh, there you are, Lucy, I was beginning to think you were ignoring me. You know how I don't like that."
Lucifer strides over, "Michael, do not take out your anger on him."
The human gives a little gasp as Michael squeezes. "of course not, brother."
"Michael." And Lucifer sounds furious, and Michael feels sick and broken because Lucifer is angry at him for threatening a human, and when did his priorities switch so drastically. And he should be happy but it's all too late.
"No, I'm fine." The human grunts as Lucifer narrows his eyes at Michael, and really, that just infuriates him further.
He squeezes until they hear a crack, and Sam gasps. He releases the human then, And the room crackles with Lucifer's energy as the boy leaves running, clutching his arm to his chest.
He's grinning up until the point he realizes nothing happened. He deflates, and at that moment Lucifer must realize why because the energy levels suddenly drop back down to normal. He glares at the wall, ignoring the almost pitying look Lucifer sends his way. "If your grace could be jumpstarted by more Grace, Michael, you would already be back to full power." He says gently. Michael sneers.
Lucifer sighs, then becomes serious. "Don't harm him, Michael, he's the only person willing to do this for you."
Michael laughs, "Why is that, brother? Does he like to take care of strays that were hit by buses? Or am I just special?"
As Lucifer leaves he hears a soft, sad, "For both your sakes I hope you never find out."
The door closed as Michael broke into laughter, pained gasps of hysteria.
Castiel pressed his Grace into the fracture, healed the internal bleeding and splintered bone after a moment. Sam sighed in relief as Dean growled, "I'm gonna kill him."
Ignoring his brother, Sam takes his hand back and gives a grateful, "Thanks, Cas."
"No problem, Samuel." Turning to face the other Winchester, "Dean, I do not think that is the best course of action, aside from the fact that it would be very difficult for you."
Dean ignores that in favor of continuing, "Seriously, I get that he's fucked up, but - "
And suddenly Lucifer is joining them in the hall.
"He believed that getting me to release my Grace would awaken his. He saw my protectiveness of Sam and attempted to make me angry."
Dean raised his eyebrows, "And?"
Lucifer returned it with a grim stare, "And it appears no amount of Grace will make a difference."
Dean shrugged, feigning indifference.
"I can live with that."
He wore away at the bonds on the one arm with his grace as the boy pressed wet cloth to his forehead.
"I think I will kill you first when I am free." He says conversationally.
Naturally the human says something to ruin his mood immediately.
"You are free." without missing a beat, continuing to wipe his face.
Michael stiffens, then snarls. A few more moments and that would be true.
Sam stills, then puts the cloth back into the bowl. He leans over until he is inches from Michael's face. This is the closest Michael has ever seen him before. He had never been able to see the boy's eyes from under the hood, but they are a grey green, sharp and kind and knowing.
"Then crush my neck." He croons into Michael's ear, and the archangel freezes.
He presses his nose into the crook of Michael's neck and breathes, "Squeeze until I'm choking air and coughing blood, until my spine snaps and shatters and you're happy." He twists his head and they both heard the faint noise of his neck cracking, and looks Michael straight in the eyes.
There is something old there, something dark and capricious and even cruel, because Michael is lost.
There is something in those eyes that knows.
He waits, and then, evidently satisfied that Michael will do absolutely nothing, leans away, picks up the bowl and departs, earlier than usual.
Michael lays still for several moments spun so in shock. Then he is furious, the quiet kind that promises retribution.
"I could tell he was about to kill me, Dean."
"SO YOU TELL HIM TO?!"
And then Sam, completely serious, says, "I'm surprised you're not yelling more. Go on. Get it out."
Dean sighs, deflating, "Ugh, Sam, c'mon, man, seriously?"
Sam gave Castiel a pointed look, who looked momentarily befuddled, but then smiled, bemused.
Dean gives a double take, "What, what is it, Cas? Spill."
Cas gave Dean a small smile, "Sam was expressing the effectiveness of reverse psychology. It worked on Michael momentarily, and just now, on you."
Dean stared blankly at him for a moment, then gave an annoyed scowl, "not helping, Cas, seriously."
Castiel shrugged, "My personal opinion is that Sam was very intuitive and quick thinking."
"Yeah, yeah, so he managed to not get killed by the creep. Congrats. Why are we sending him back in with that psycho?"
"You know that an Angel can't go in without him trying to break them. He recognizes them all. Like you, he was a very good brother."
Dean shrugs that one off, ignores it because it makes him uncomfortable.
"I still say bad call."
A bitchface is leveled his way, "I'm a grown ass man and I make my own decisions."
"Unless you want to do it?"
Dean struggles with that for a few moments, wrestling with responsibility and his own feelings about Michael because the Archangel creeps him out and makes him question too much about himself and what he can become, but Sam just snorts and walks off, not wanting to pursue it, half afraid Dean is overprotective enough to call his bluff.
Sam had just put the bowl down when Michael snapped the bonds on his one hand. There was a moment of shock for both sides, his own joyous and the human's stunned, before the human's palm slammed his hand back down onto the slab, resulting in even more surprise, again for both sides.
He was alarmed by the strength of his feminine caretaker. He had taken to thinking the boy was feminine, at least. It wasn't as if Michael could tell much about him while he was cloaked. He knew the man was a hunter, a warrior, and yet, here he was, tending to a weak Archangel.
He was about to flick the hand off and then snap the boy's wrist in the process when the human leaned forward and pressed his mouth to Michael's.
Surprise, black and warm pooled in his chest. It was almost desperate, but determined. The man was unshaken, although Michael was almost sure he hadn't arrived planning this. Suddenly the magic of the room sparked to life and the straps rewound themselves around his hand. The human released his wrist and drew back, grabbing the bowl and again retreating, again, earlier than he was supposed to.
Michael lay, nonplussed, for several moments.
Then he began to laugh.
"Uh huh. Anything you wanna tell me?"
"Shut up Dean," and the blush is barely there, only discernible to Castiel, who is not sure whether or not being with Dean requires him to inform his partner of it. Perhaps later. Perhaps he should ask Lucifer.
"Well, he's laughing manically in there, so congrats, you now have a total of two creepy archangel boyfriends," Dean continued.
"Dean, seriously," Sam said, glaring hard enough that Dean almost let it go.
"No, you seriously, what were you thinking, why do you keep going back in?"
Sam sighed, dragging his hands through his hair in that nervous habit of his, "He's you, Dean. Whatever he is now, he - I can't just -" He struggled to bring his feelings to tangible, vocal form, but quickly abandoned the project when he saw the Archangel quickly approaching.
Dean got the idea in any case, and it made him feel awkward enough to not add to it.
Lucifer had a strange look on his face, "Sam, did you truly -"
Dean snorted loudly, which earned him a stink eye.
Sam scoffed and turned towards Lucifer, "I used up all the protection Grace you gave me putting his hand back down. I had to distract him. I didn't know what to do." To his credit, he seemed a bit miserable.
Lucifer sighs, "I believe you."
"Course you do, you're his creepy archangel boyfriend number one" comes Dean's answer, which is promptly ignored by everyone else.
The next time when the human walks in carrying the bowl, he says, "This is apparently going to be my last visit, so I've come to say goodbye-"
Michael is glad be pooled his energy for this, then. Immediately he shoves it out. The bonds snap and he leans up, startling the human. It's painful, but much more effective than when he was mindlessly attempting to hurt anyone who came near him.
Sam had dropped the bowl in his alarm, and now he stands, frozen.
Michael slides off the slab in one smooth motion.
Just as he's wondering how afraid the boy is -
"Dammit, Michael, now I'm all wet." The human complains, to his incredible surprise.
He snaps his fingers and the wet stains are gone. It's an unnecessarily draining waste of energy, but he wants to prove to himself he can keep up with this maddening creature.
"Oh. Thanks-" The human barely manages to say before Michael is pressing him up against the wall.
For a moment the human's breath stutters, to Michael's delight. He is not as collected as he makes himself out to be, which is very enjoyable, if not gratifying.
He cannot say for certain why he does it. He had been both pleasantly surprised by and appreciative of the escape with the kiss as opposed to the trick because it had been a question of what the human had been willing to do to survive, and that Michael could applaud. And now, he wants to test that again. The human could die right this moment unless he entertains Michael, and they both know this.
And maybe he wants to see how much of this human is hidden. Who this could be that Lucifer would be so protective. Who could be so important to Lucifer, who had been willing to lose God's love so that he didn't have to bow to humanity. And maybe he wants to take from Lucifer instead of give.
Other than that, he had no real reason to kiss the human again.
They hear Lucifer appear at the door, call out in quiet shock, and Michael drags whatever grace is left and throws it out, keeps Lucifer away. And then tentative hands are reaching out, gentle on on his jaw, and he wants it to be cruel and angry and he is about to bite the human because it is too late for tenderness and kindness, but then he is leaning into Michael with a breathtaking ferocity.
And then whatever it is that clicks, the alignment, perhaps suddenly connects soul to Grace and whoever or whatever he was is suddenly Michael and it is like breathing again after an eternity of holding his breath.
He gasps and the human stumbles away under the light of a Grace sparking back to complete power, old rusted machines humming to life and crackling with energies. He wants to warn the human not to look, that his eyes will burn.
Speaking of burning, the sigils sown into the robes are flushed away with the revelation of his Grace, and Michael freezes.
Lucifer's vessel stares up at him from behind a forearm, completely unharmed by his Grace.
"You." He whisper-hisses, horrified shock beginning to mold into anger.
Suddenly Lucifer is there, standing between them, and Michael needs no better incentive to go, to just GO and not.
He hides properly, this time.
He wards and he bleeds and he expends all of the Grace that he has regained. Just needs to remember himself. No. Catch up with himself. All that he is, back, restored. He needs to decide who he is, now. He sits, to contemplate, and instead -
His name is Sam.
It is one thing to see a soul, and another thing entirely to feel it. Michael curls up on himself, ignores the stinging in his wings and the heat upon his skin as the vessel struggles to cope with his immense power.
Tries not to think of cool hands on his brow.