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if it's true

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The last thing Adam remembers is looking out the kitchen window of their apartment, asking Michael for his opinions on a grocery list that Michael has no stake in and they both know Adam won't live long enough to use, and then - nothing. There'd been one last fleeting press of Michael's grace against his soul, and then even that was gone.

When he opens his eyes again, it's to a sucking coldness in his chest and the orange glare of the sun just starting to drop behind the weird old house with the brick turret across the road from them. When they'd been picking out apartments, Michael had expressed a liking for that view and for the family of Cooper hawks nesting outside on the rusting old fire escape, but it's pretty clear Michael's not there anymore. Adam's back from the dead, though, so that's got to mean the Winchesters won, and Michael will be back to catch him up to speed as soon as he's done cleaning up his dad's mess.

For the first time in centuries, he's really alone. There's a laundry list of drawbacks to sharing a body with another person 24/7, but somehow it doesn't even take him half an hour of wandering listlessly around the apartment before he starts missing Michael like a limb. In the back of his head he acknowledges how weird and codependent that probably is, but whatever, he can deal with it after Michael gets back, after he's filled the freezing, aching hole that seems to have lodged just under his ribs.

It strikes him, as he stares out the kitchen window at the tail end of a hazy purple-gray dusk, that he's never actually been separated from Michael since that disaster of a first meeting in Heaven's reception room. They've always been just as close as the tie between his grace and Adam’s soul, which started out terrible and then became a comfort and now feels like a necessity. But it does mean that although he's familiar with the mechanics and the theory of prayer, he's... never had to do it himself. 

"Hey, Michael." He can feel his cheeks heating up at how stupid the whole thing is, and he half-hopes Michael isn't actually within earshot. This is probably going to go down as history's most irreverent prayer or something, but he figures a thousand years of familiarity have bred him a little well-deserved contempt. "I'm sure you're busy dealing with everything with your dad, but you could have at least left me a note. Get back to me when you can."

He didn't exactly expect Michael to appear in their living room in a wash of golden light and glass-shattering sound, but he can't deny being a little disappointed when there's nothing.

A couple hours later, still with no sign of Michael, he suddenly identifies the weird crawling feeling in his gut as hunger. (And maybe also a little anxiety about the whole missing-archangel thing, but he's trying not to think about that.) It's been so long since he's ever actually felt hungry that he waits another half hour to go looking for food, just for the sheer novelty of the thing. It's been convenient having an angel around to deal with all the awkward inconvenient parts of being a human being, and he hasn't really missed them that much, but it's just - different! When actual honest-to-god sleepiness hits him in a wave after he's scraped together a respectable dinner of assorted takeout leftovers, he stops and appreciates the novelty of that too before tumbling into bed.

It's not like he can't or doesn't eat and sleep while Michael is possessing him. They figured that out pretty quickly after the Cage. But he doesn't feel the actual need or discomfort of it, and maybe it makes him some kind of weird masochist, but he's honestly kind of enjoying the sensation. Just a little reminder that Hell didn't take away everything about being human, just put it on pause for a bit. When Michael gets back, they'll go back to 24-hour movie marathons again, but for now he's going to enjoy this little slice of humanity while it lasts.

He spends most of the next day playing with the thermostat and probably doing a number on their power bill for that month, experimenting with heat and cold until he gets bored, and doing pushups until there's a pleasant burn all through his arms and core. He eats when he's hungry, drinks when he's thirsty, naps when he feels like it, and takes a walk around the little corner park just to feel the crisp breeze cut right through his jacket.

The next day he wakes up and probes at the empty space in his chest like worrying at a loose tooth with his tongue. The coldness isn't really real, he knows that much, but - he misses Michael. He misses the light of him, the warmth, his shaky grasp of deadpan humor and his willingness to talk and listen in equal measure. Fuck's sake, Adam misses the softness in Michael's expression when he'd looked at him, the way he'd smile and go along with whatever bullshit Adam was up to. He's not stupid, he knows it's not the same as how he feels - Michael explained the exact limitations of angelic emotion pretty early on in their time in the Cage, and he hasn't updated his information since - but that doesn't mean Adam doesn't still miss it like the sunlight, even if it doesn't mean anything to Michael the way it means something to him.

He tries praying again that morning, sitting on the edge of his bed and watching the sunrise crawl up the wall over the plaster. He keeps trying all day long, everything from detailed descriptions of his breakfast to really, really desperate pleas that he doesn't think he'd have the guts to say out loud if he had even the slightest hope Michael was actually paying attention to him. But there's no answer, not the slightest whisper of Michael's presence, and the hole where his grace used to rest aches and aches.

When he wakes up the next morning with tears streaming down his cheeks from a dream he can't remember, he caves. There's a slip of paper still in his old jacket pocket with Dean Winchester's number on it, and even though he'd had every intention of throwing it straight into the trash, he'd never gotten around to it. If anyone has any idea what's happened to Michael, it's probably him, and after everything, the Winchesters owe Adam an explanation or three.

The phone rings enough times that he actually starts to hope there won't be an answer, but just when he's about to hang up the ringtone breaks off abruptly and there's Dean Winchester's gravelly "Hello?" at the other end.

Adam is never going to let Michael hear the end of this, when he gets back. He takes a breath. "Hey, Dean." Lets it out. "It's Adam."

"Oh, shit." Adam really, really does not like the sound of that. "Are you - are you okay? Where are you?"

"My apartment. Dean, I'm not dying, calm down." Whether he’s okay or not is still up for debate, but it’s also definitely not what he wants to talk about. "Just wanted to know if you had any idea where Michael is. I assume you guys won, since the world didn't end, but it's been a few days since I woke up and he still hasn't turned up..." In the back of his head he grimaces a little; even to himself, that sounds stupidly clingy, but he doesn't really care enough to try to walk it back.

There's a pause, just long enough for something sick that's been growing slowly in the cold space inside him to unfurl with the speed of a tidal wave bearing down. Then - "He's... Michael's gone, man. I'm sorry."

The wave hits, and for a moment there's nothing but sucking black water. Inside him, there's something drowning, screaming for air, but thank god it never breaks the surface. Into the silence, as that little part of himself chokes on despair and goes under for good, he hears himself ask, "How?"

"It's a long story -"

"I've got time." He doesn't quite mean for it to come out so biting, but it does anyway. Whatever. Dean can deal.

"Yeah. Yeah, okay. So the spell he gave us in the bunker - we ended up not using it."

"Yeah, I kinda figured something went south when people started dropping like flies."

Sharply, Dean asks, "You want to tell this story?" In the pause, while Adam's still too angry to properly snap back at him, he sighs. "Shit. Busy week. Not your fault." Another silence, this one a lot longer. Adam's all right with that. Time hasn't really meant anything to him in a long while. "Like you said, Chuck was taking out the whole world. Just me'n'Sam and the kid, Jack, you didn't meet him at the bunker 'cause he was - uh, dead at the time. Not important." Under any other circumstances Adam would probably have all kinds of questions, but he just listens, feeling vaguely numb. "Anyway. Michael dodged the rapture and showed up offering to help out. He, uh. Listen, are you sure you wanna hear this?"

Adam is not going to cry on the phone with his stupid, aggressively straight, mostly estranged half brother over the death of the stupid fucking archangel who ruined his life and possessed him for hundreds of years. Who Adam might have had a crush on, so sue him. He's not. He pinches the bridge of his nose just to be safe, leans his head against the wall and doesn't let himself think about anything other than the texture of the plaster against his forehead. "I'm fine. Keep talking."

There's a long pause, in which Adam thinks wildly that if Dean makes him lie one more time he's going to kill him, but finally he says, "Okay. Look, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, he sold us out to Chuck. We won, Chuck's not gonna hurt anyone ever again, but he - Michael tried to get back into his dad's good graces. Didn't work. Chuck called it too little too late and ripped him apart." Adam holds his breath to keep from sobbing audibly, presses his fingers against his eyes and pretends they're not wet. "Adam... I'm sorry. It was a shitty way to go out -"

"Stop. Stop. I can't -" He swallows hard against the hot, choking lump in his throat, but it doesn't seem to help.

"Okay." Dean's voice is strangely, horribly gentle, thick with what Adam knows in his bones is pity, and he hates it. "Okay. You need anything, papers or cash or a place to stay or, fuck, you want an empty bit of field to scream in - my number won't change. Uh, Sam's better at this feelings shit if you want -"

The bone-rattling horror of going through this all over again with another Winchester snaps him right out of his funk. "No offense, but I think I'm good." Dean barks a short laugh.

"Yeah, good call. You'll let us know if you need anything?"

"Yeah." It's another lie, but who's counting. "Wait -" he almost breaks again, but he has to know, just to put the whole thing to bed - "one last thing."


"What happens to angels when they die? Are they just - is that just the end of them? Gone?"

Dean sucks in a ragged breath. "Not exactly." Adam closes his eyes and does not let hope rise up sharp as vinegar in his throat. "Angels and demons get dumped in the Empty. They just sleep, far as we know. Michael got personally unmade by God, but he's probably there too." Okay. Okay, that's - Adam can live with that. He can make himself live with that. Michael is at peace, finally. However fucked-up it is, he's - at least he's not tearing himself in two between his father and Adam anymore. It doesn't stop the tears from welling up again despite all his best efforts. "Cas and the kid are just getting back," Dean says, interrupting his train of thought, and Adam's unspeakably grateful for it, "so, uh, I should probably go. Take care of yourself, and if you need anything, I mean anything -"

"Thanks," Adam interrupts, because the only thing he needs right now is Michael, and that ship has apparently sailed, "bye, Dean." He hangs up without waiting for a response, winds back, and hurls his phone at the couch cushions as hard as he can. It just lands with a thwap against the stupid plush abomination he'd bought as a joke, mostly because it made Michael twitch, and drops to the seat perfectly unharmed.

"You stupid fucking asshole," he whispers into the emptiness, and suspecting that there wasn't anyone hearing his prayers was one thing but knowing it is another, "you bastard, how could you do something like this to me?" He doesn't think he's cried like this since the Cage, just at the beginning. And honestly, there's a stupid little part of him that's angry about that, of all things - that out of everything he could be breaking down about, out of everyone and everything he's lost, he's snapping over the archangel that landed him in this whole mess to begin with.

That out of everyone he could have loved, he picked fucking Michael, and the bastard had the nerve to die on him.

In the back of his head, there's a little part of him that's always kept its cool, kept him on track through the roughest parts of school and got him into a good college on a good scholarship even when he was only sleeping five hours a night and running on fumes and instant coffee. It was the horrifically calm part of him that was still saying what a good practical anatomy exercise when something with too many teeth was eating him alive, and now it sticks its head up again and says this is probably a good thing too. That they finally have a chance to live a normal life, to pretend that angels and demons and monsters never existed in the first place, to maybe find a nice guy who definitely has his own body to wear and adopt a couple cats or a kid or something.

The rest of Adam Milligan slumps against the wall of an empty apartment and sobs.

After a few hours, mostly spent staring vacantly into space trying very hard not to think and the occasional crying fit when the not-thinking doesn't work, he finally gets up. Makes himself get something to eat. He wasn't raptured long enough for anything to have gone bad, but he's running out of milk and rice and butter and unless he wants to be eating nothing but loose burger buns and taco seasoning, he'll have to go shopping again soon. Probably start looking for a job; wherever Michael had been getting them money from, it probably won't last much longer now that he's - gone. Start saving up, maybe take a couple night classes if the city college offers them, just to get back into the swing of things. It's all stuff he and Michael had talked about after they'd left the bunker to find a place of their own, not in a lot of depth, but enough that Adam feels vaguely ill at the idea of doing any of it without Michael there with him.

He realizes he's been standing in front of the open refrigerator for at least ten minutes and shuts it with chilly fingers. He eats on autopilot, takes a shower just for something to do, curls back up on the couch, and tries unsuccessfully to take a nap. He channel surfs for a while without actually taking anything in. Tomorrow. Tomorrow he'll get up and figure out what he's going to do with a life that's suddenly just his. But first he gets one day to be a complete fucking wreck, because after everything he's earned it.

The sun's switched sides of the apartment and it's starting to get chilly when someone knocks three times on the door, too light to be the mail or building maintenance or anyone else who's just there to get a job done. That means Adam's going to have to pretend that he's not actually mourning, and when he misses that mark by a mile he's going to have to pretend to be comforted by someone pretending to be sympathetic. It's almost enough to make him not get up at all, but the knocking comes back after a minute or two. He figures he might as well get it over with.

There's a kid standing outside his door - well, Adam probably doesn't look that much older than he does, but he's earned the right to call just about anyone a kid at this point. Blond hair, blue eyes, a smile like the whole world's been sunshine and roses for him since the second he was born. That smile just gets wider when he sees Adam, blinding white teeth on display. For a split second, Adam remembers he doesn't have an archangel riding along with him anymore and if something wants to eat him now, he's shit out of luck. Part of him just doesn't care, though.

The kid raises one hand in something halfway between a wave and a benediction and says, cheerfully, "Hello!"

Well, it's a step up from pouncing on Adam and eating him alive. "Can I help you?" Adam asks, when it's clear there's nothing else forthcoming.

"Maybe!" the kid says, with way too much energy. "I hope so, anyway. I'm Jack. Dean and Sam told me about you. I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you sooner, I think we were both dead at bad times." He pauses. "Well, every time's a bad time to be dead, I think."

Adam has had a very long week. For the sake of his own mental wellbeing, he doesn't bother trying to pick that one apart, just says, "Yeah, you could say that," and holds the door open a little wider. "Come on in."

He makes them coffee mostly on autopilot. Jack seems perfectly content to sit at the kitchen table in silence, looking around the room like the organization of Adam's spice rack is the most fascinating thing he's encountered all day. Around when the last drops of coffee are starting to hit the pot, the vestigial remnants of his ability to do small talk finally kick off a thousand years of rust just enough for him to ask, "So how do you know Dean and Sam?"

Jack perks up. "Oh, right. I'm Lucifer's son." The coffee pot falls straight through Adam's hands and he just has time to think as if this week couldn't get any fucking worse before it freezes midair. Jack's eyes are glowing a brilliant gold, a few shades richer than the way Michael had shone when they first met, but close enough that something tightens in Adam's throat anyway. "Sorry! Sorry. I keep forgetting that freaks people out." Half convinced this is some kind of fucking fever dream, Adam plucks the pot up from where it's been hovering patiently around his knees and sets it safely on the counter. Jack's eyes are a very earnest, very apologetic blue again. "I'm really sorry."

"It's fine," Adam says on autopilot. "So you're... an archangel too?" Must be, although even Michael's eyes hadn't glowed like that.

"A nephil, actually! Half angel, half human. My mother died when I was born, so Castiel raised me. Well, sort of. At first it was just Sam and Dean, because Cas died when I was born too."

Adam stares at him.

"I helped bring him back, though! That's - sort of what I was hoping to talk to you about?"

A little faintly, Adam says, "About raising Cas from the dead?" That doesn't make much sense to him, but then again, neither has anything else about this fucking conversation.

"Well, about bringing Michael back?"

It's a very good thing, Adam thinks, that he's not holding anything else he could drop. About bringing Michael back, this teenage half-angel says, like it's just another day to him and not the one question that's been spinning around Adam's head ever since Dean said he was - somewhere else, sleeping. That if Adam could be dragged out of Heaven and dropped into the dirt of a clearing god only knows where, that maybe something could do the same for Michael.

"You can do that?"

Jack frowns just a little, sipping from his mug. It's just a dumb souvenir mug with some lame pun in French that Adam had picked up from the Goodwill down the road two days after he and Michael got back from their Paris flyby, but Jack cups it in both hands like it's something precious. "Not exactly? I mean, I sort of got Chuck's powers after we defeated him, but even he couldn't do something like -"

"You're God?" Adam blurts out, because apparently that's the only coherent string of words his brain will produce. The kid - God - winces.

"I'm just Jack," he says, earnestly. "The god thing is temporary! I'm just fixing everything Chuck broke first."

"That sounds like a healthy approach. Speaking from experience, cosmic destiny and young adulthood don't really mix."

"Oh! I'm actually three."

Jack very kindly gives him a couple minutes to recover from that one. Adam thinks of himself as very tolerant of supernatural bullshit, given everything he's had to go through, but this fucking week -

Eventually, though, they're back to sitting across the too-small kitchen table from each other, sort of drinking coffee that's already starting to get cold while Jack explains himself.

"Michael was an archangel, they're - I can't even pull out the lower orders of angel, not unless the Empty lets me, and we’re kind of not on speaking terms right now. Anyway, archangels are way harder. It's kind of why we're trying to get Michael back? Archangels are -" the kid makes a little gesture like frustration, one that Adam almost thinks he recognizes from when Michael got annoyed with the limitations of the English language and started speaking Akkadian or ancient Hebrew instead. "They're all in the Empty now, and it's like there's a hole where their kind of thing is supposed to be. Amara and I think it would be healthy for the universal ecosystems of power to fill it." He says that part with finger quotes and everything. "I could make new ones, I guess, but I don't actually know how and it would be a lot of work and also - kind of weird? Really weird."

"Because bringing back your uncle who apparently sold you out to your evil grandfather is less weird?" Okay, open mouth, insert foot. Jack's face does something complicated and incomprehensible for a second before he goes back to his usual state of unruffled cheeriness.

"Well, a little, yeah. Chuck's not a problem anymore! And Michael was fine until you died. I think. I was dead for a lot of that part, but that's what everyone said. And. Um. Cas and Dean said it seemed like you cared about each other, so I thought I should ask if you wanted to get him back? You're probably the only one who can even find him now, where he is." Adam's struggling to find a nice way to tell a toddler-god that he really, really doesn't want to discuss his crush on the angel possessing him with that angel's nephew, but Jack seems to take his silence the wrong way anyway, because his face falls a little. "Or - maybe not. It's okay! Amara and I will figure something out. Sorry, I shouldn't have said anything -" and that finally gets Adam's brain working again.

"No," he says quickly, "no, I do. I do want to get him back. What do I need to do?"

Jack beams.

The plan, according to Jack, involves dropping Adam straight into the angel afterlife and letting him wander around until their "sufficiently strong emotional connection," as Jack says with more finger-quotes, leads him to Michael, and then sneaking him out before the asshole cosmic entity running the show catches them. Jack says Dean didn't run into any trouble grabbing Cas even though Cas was at the top of the Empty's shit list, which is comforting; and that the Empty can't keep humans who want to leave, which is also comforting; and that it can probably hurt him quite a lot if it catches him, which is not comforting at all.

"You don't have to," Jack says for the thousandth time, with a painful amount of sincerity in his blue eyes, "Dean can try if you'd rather," but if Adam's sure about one thing it's that he's not going to leave a Winchester in charge of Michael's resurrection. Besides, he's pretty sure the only emotional connection Dean and Michael have is mutual disdain, and while he's sure it's very strong, he also doesn't think it's quite what Jack meant.

"We've got the stuff for the spell back at the bunker, if you're okay with flying?" Jack finally asks. Just a few hours ago Adam had been desperate to get Michael back as quickly as possible, but for the first time he feels a thread of anxiety too.

"Yeah, sure," he says, instead of thinking about any of that. This is what he wanted, and it's a miracle he's getting a chance to make it work, and he's not going to waste any more time than he already has.

"Great!" Jack says, all smiles. He takes Adam's elbow and there's a whir of wings and light that feels vaguely familiar from all the times Michael's flown them around the planet, but it feels so much worse riding along on the outside. It really just makes him miss Michael even more, and god, he doesn't know what he's going to do if this whole stupid plan doesn't work out.

"Jack! Adam! We weren't sure if you'd come." Sam Winchester looks up from a massive table buried in stacks of half-open books as they land in what must be their library, Adam with a bit of a stumble that's thankfully caught by Jack's hand still at his elbow. "Jack, Rowena and I will get that array set up if you get her from the kitchen; she went to grab a bite to eat a couple minutes ago. Dean made nachos while you were gone." Jack promptly vanishes, looking delighted, and Adam's happy the kid seems so excited, but it has the unintended consequence of stranding him alone with Sam.

"So Jack told you the plan?" Sam asks, which Adam admittedly prefers as a topic of conversation to "how have you been doing" or "are you okay" or some bullshit like that.

"Mostly, yeah." He flips through one of the books closest to him, and gives up when it turns out to be mostly in Latin and also illustrated with a good bit of human sacrifice. "Surprised you and Dean are on board with bringing him back." Sam makes a complicated grimace that really tells Adam everything he needs to know.

"To be honest? Neither of us is really happy about it. But Dean doesn't really get to complain about other people dragging stuff out of the Empty anymore, and I figure Jack knows what he's doing." It's not really reassuring, but Adam's at least a little less anxious that they're going to try to throw them both back in the Cage if this works. "And I may not like it, but I do like it better than Jack having to make new archangels from scratch. He's too young to deal with all of that."

"Yeah, three years old is definitely too early for kids." Sam laughs. "He said he was retiring from godhood when he was done?"

"That's the plan, yeah. He should get to be a kid, you know?" Adam thinks about saying something about that, and then lets it go. He came here with the express intention of getting Michael and getting out without any uncomfortable conversations about family, and getting into their less than stellar childhoods is definitely going to blow that for him. "We're waiting on the visiting expert to get back from drinking all the wine in the kitchen, but I can give you the beginner's guide to trans-dimensional blood magic, if you're interested?" And then, taking pity on Adam's expression, he adds, "Or you can hang out in the kitchen until we're ready! Dean's got drinks and snacks going, unless Jack and Eileen have eaten them all."

Eileen turns out to be very good company for someone who thinks hunting is a good idea. The fact that she ribs Dean and Cas mercilessly at every opportunity helps. Between her and the food, Adam's almost enjoying himself by the time Jack materializes at his elbow with a cheerful smile and the message from Sam and Rowena that the preliminary spellwork is laid down and they're all set to catapult him into angel hell whenever he's ready.

"We've had a hundred-percent success rate this week, so don't blow it for us," Dean says dryly, as Adam steps gingerly into the middle of an absurdly complicated chalk heptagram laid out on the library floor. Eileen lobs a crumpled sheet of scrap paper from the other side of their little circle and hits him neatly in the eye. "Ow, fuck."

Much more gravely, Sam adds, "Adam, listen," and fuck, he really wishes they would just do the spell now so he doesn't have to hear the rest of this, "the Empty doesn't want you there. You really can leave as easy as snapping your fingers, I swear. It's not like -" and Adam instinctively knows he's about to say the Cage, and if he does he's going to crack apart right then and there in the middle of the library.

"Got it, yeah," he says quickly, "can we get this over with?"

"If you're not back in a day, we're coming in after you," Dean says, and this he does look serious about. Adam nods and looks away as quickly as he can. Then there's a whole lot of chanting and smoke and the chalk puffs into flame before snuffing out into lines of black ash around him, and the whole world goes dark.