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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."

"Shoot."

"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.

Chapter Text

The Empty is... Adam's not going to lie, the Empty is probably the most unnerving place he's ever been in, and he's spent a really long time in Hell. It's the pitch blackness that's getting to him the most, the emptiness and the utter silence. Unlike the Cage, he's here of his own free will, but also unlike the Cage, he's here alone, and he's really not sure if it's better or worse on net. 

But hopefully he won't be alone for long. Dean had said he'd just walked, and called out for Cas, and he'd showed right up. Made it sound as simple as picking up a gallon of milk at the grocery store. On the other hand, Dean could probably condense War and Peace to three or four bitten-off words, so Adam's not sure how reassuring he should find that. Especially when it doesn't take a genius to see that Dean and Cas are wrapped up in the kind of tooth-rotting love that saves the world and brings people back from the dead, and Adam's only got a half-formed crush and a thousand years of codependency on his side. Not that he minds! He's had time to get comfortable with both of those things. He's just not so sure Michael will come when he calls. 

Focusing on all the ways this could go wrong is definitely not going to help him. He picks a direction and starts walking, trusting that it probably won't matter too much if he gets turned around and starts going in a circle in the dark. He walks for what feels like a long time, although his sense of time has been impressively fucked up ever since Hell, and he talks. Quietly, so as not to wake up anything they should probably let sleep, but he tells Michael about the days he's missed. There's not really much to tell, given that until Jack had showed up he'd really just stuck close to home and tried to relax, but it's not like he doesn't have practice spinning a conversation out way longer than it should be. He rambles, and he steers clear of topics like "Michael, I can't believe after everything you went back to your dad" and "Michael, your nephew is the new God and it's really weird" and "Michael, I might be in love with you." 

He gets as far as the spell in the library, and the hole-in-the-wall burger joint a few miles out from their apartment that Eileen passed through a couple years back and swears by, and stops. He has no idea how long he's been walking, or where he is, or where Michael is, and he really doesn't want to leave without him and he really doesn't want the Winchesters to come pull him out. On the other hand - there are so many other things boiling up inside him, just under his tongue, and he doesn't know if he wants to say any of them, or which one he could even start with.

Don't make me go back alone. Don't make me learn to do this without you. Don't make me keep feeding the stray cats you keep luring to the back door by myself. He can't help the huff of laughter that bursts up at the memory of Michael frozen on the apartment steps with what must have been every cat in the neighborhood twining around his ankles. "I miss you," he tells the darkness before he can think better of it, the last traces of a smile still clinging stubbornly to his face. "I miss you, you idiot. Come home with me."

Far away, so faint he nearly misses it, there's a spark of something just a little brighter than the endless smooth floors of the Empty. Oh.

Adam's not ashamed to say he breaks into a sprint.

Michael seems curled in on himself somehow, wings folded and myriad eyes shut, and the golden glow of him is dimmer than Adam's ever seen it before. But he's there, and that's the only thing Adam cares about right now. If Michael is there, Adam can wake him up, and if he wakes him up, they can leave. That's what Jack said, and the kid is God now, he should know. Michael's wings rise and fall slowly, slowly, the gentle rhythm of sleep, and for just one moment Adam lets himself really look at him. He's never seen Michael like this before, hopefully never will again, but he's - he's peaceful. Finally, for once in his impossibly long life, he's at peace.

"Michael," he tries, softly, and reaches out to brush the massive golden feather nearest to him. "Michael, wake up."

The wing that had almost been brushing his cheek flares out, nearly taking Adam's head off, but then the great stirring mass of light and feathers shrinks and shifts until Adam is suddenly looking himself in the face. Or, close to himself - there's that set to the jaw, the tension in the shoulders that screams Michael, and he really hadn't realized how much he'd missed him until he was right there -

Michael blinks at him once, twice. Then, in a voice so courteous it clips right through polite and straight into chilly: "Oh. It's you. I'd thought you would want me soundly out for all eternity."

In Adam's defense, it wasn't that long ago that he was murdered by God himself. In the days since then he's been out of his mind with worry and then grief, and he's just shot himself into a hostile parallel dimension to drag Michael's sorry ass out after he got himself killed trying to help his asshole dad destroy the world even faster. So he's maybe a little sharper than he'd meant to be. "If I'd known you were going to be like this about it, I wouldn't have bothered to come." That's - okay, that's a lie, he would've, and now that he's here he's still not leaving without Michael. He'd just kind of hoped that maybe it wasn't true. That there was some other explanation, that Michael hadn't chosen his father over Adam in the end.

"Yes, I wish you hadn't." Okay, that stung. Michael takes in the wounded, furious expression Adam hasn't even bothered trying to hide, and has the fucking - the fucking gall to shoot Adam a look that's more annoyed than anything. "Don't. Don't look at me like I'm the one being cruel here."

He can't quite keep all the bitterness out of his voice when he shoots back, "You always do take a couple centuries to realize when you've fucked up, don't you?"

"Don't throw that back at me. You're not the one I owe an apology to." There's a furling of light like a whip that Adam knows means Michael's having trouble restraining himself from violence, but he's well past giving a shit. How could this have gone so far south - he'd really thought, after everything, that he'd meant more to Michael than that. That Michael had finally realized that the kinds of fathers who left their children behind without so much as a backwards glance weren't worth a plug nickel, that they could make something better together.

"Yeah, I heard all about that, how you went right back over to your dad's side begging his forgiveness -" Michael erupts, wings and blades of light and incomprehensible wheeling forms of birds and beasts and vast spires lashing out in a fraction of a second. The Adam-shape in front of him is incandescent with fury, and something more pained than fury.

"What do you want?" Michael snarls in a voice that's more than sound. A thousand gleaming wings rear back, every feather spread. "For me to say it all over again? That I would have done anything for anyone who had the power to bring him back, that for years the only thing I wanted was his absolution, that I loved him?" The coldness inside Adam's chest is just growing, threatening to suck him down under black water again even as Michael blazes in front of him. The glowing-eyed apparition in front of him takes a ragged gasp of air that it doesn't need. "That I loved him, as no angel should ever love a human? That he alone showed me what there was to value in the world my father abandoned?" Oblivious to Adam's sudden, screeching recalibration, the trembling vastness of Michael's grace sinks down, slipping away until there's just the shape of a man, sunk to his knees with only the faintest suggestion of wings furled close around him.

"I loved him," Michael says into the silence, in a voice that's only their own. "I hurt him beyond forgiveness. I was too much of a coward to save him in the end. You've had your fun, now take his face off and put me back to sleep."

Michael is a thrashing flood of despair in front of him, a sucking well of bitterness that would make Adam's heart ache if he weren't fucking giddy with relief. "Hey. Michael. Look at me." Michael doesn't move. "Hey. It's me, dumbass." Adam doesn't think he could have put even the slightest fraction of heat into the insult even if he'd tried. When they'd just gotten out of Hell, when he'd seen the world spread out in front of them for the first time in centuries, he'd been overjoyed. Somehow, he feels the same now, alight with relief and an entire universe of possibilities ahead of him. 

Gently, he reaches for Michael's shoulder, feels something solid under his hand for just one instant before Michael starts back, head snapping up to scan his face. His eyes are wide, searching, so impossibly Michael even though Adam knows they're the perfect copy of his own, and for just a moment they're both perfectly still, caught breathless with hope. Then Michael collapses into relief. Through the mostly-human shape he's wearing Adam can see him settle, an echo of the peace he'd had before. "It's me, Michael. I'm getting you out of here." He aims his tone for light, because otherwise he'll be swept away with a nameless joy he doesn't think he can stand. "Come on, asshole. The kitchen light burned out two days ago and it's too high for me to reach."

"...Adam?"

"There we go!"

"Adam. Adam, I -" The way Michael's looking at him, tentative and reverent and still half-disbelieving and utterly lost for words, Adam thinks he's going to break apart if he has to weather those eyes on him a second longer. He settles for grabbing Michael's arm and tugging him up. If he's reveling in the closeness of Michael's grace after so many days alone, nobody has to know about it but him.

"Hey, it's okay. You don't have to say anything. Come on, let's get out of here before you wake something up that we should probably let sleep."

Michael scans his face for a moment, and then seems to come to some sort of conclusion, his stance settling into something more decided, more like the Michael Adam remembers. "Of course. I -"

"Oh, you kids missed that one by a long shot." There's a liquid rustle and a voice that Adam only knows from half-shared memories, but he's got a pretty good guess at who the short man with the neat beard and freezing eyes is supposed to be. The Empty sizes up Michael impassively. "Bit of a screamer, aren't you?"

Michael puts himself between Adam and the Shadow immediately, which would be sweet if he weren't the one who's probably in more danger, of the two of them. "Don't touch him."

The Empty pulls an exaggerated face. "Ew. No. Why would I want to? This place isn't built for humans. Don't want them, never have. You, on the other hand..."

"You don't touch him either," Adam says, although he's pretty sure he's the least able to back that up of any of them.

The Empty rolls Chuck's eyes at them both. "Kid, he's mine. Mine. He died fair and square, he sleeps fair and square. Them's the breaks."

"Adam -" and okay, no, Adam didn't spend hours crying on the couch and then planning a prison break with the Winchesters and their god-kid just to go home empty-handed, even if Michael's going to be a colossal idiot about it.

"Yeah, well, he's awake now, and I'm not leaving without him."

"Y'know, it'd be cute how you think you call any of the shots here, except for how it's really annoying." The Empty leans in, its voice somehow even colder. "He's. Mine. Here's the deal - if you go home now, I won't torture you for hours before kicking you out myself."

"Adam," Michael says, a little more desperately.

"No. Shut up." He can see the ruffled feathers rippling off Michael in waves, and he doesn't give a single shit. To the Empty, he adds, "You don't want me here. You don't want me screaming."

"You got me, I don't." Adam can't really enjoy his moment of triumph because the Empty adds sourly, "But you know what I want even less? For this shit to keep happening. You know, when the new kid took over I wasn't even mad about it. I don't care who's running the show as long as they keep it quiet. I even let them take Castiel back without a fuss because I figured he'd stop there. But if I have to make an example of you, to keep this kind of thing from happening again whenever the new god gets bored?" Adam doesn't even have a moment's warning before the Empty raises a hand, twists it, and everything hurts. "I won't think twice." He's vaguely aware of his own screams echoing through the nothing all around them, of Michael thrashing all the thousand gleaming facets of him, begging for it to leave Adam alone, and he'd feel kind of touched if he weren't so busy feeling the kind of pain that somehow manages to top out even being literally eaten alive.

"I'll go back to sleep, I'll stay here," Michael pleads in the background, and the boiling agony dies back enough for him to collapse gasping on whatever passes for ground out here.

"Oh, shut up," the Empty says, almost fondly, "obviously you're staying. Don't get so worked up, it's not like I'm keeping him either. Just... disincentivizing idiot heroes showing up to pull this kind of stunt again. Now stay down." Michael crumples like a ragdoll next to him and doesn't move again, and it's just enough to kick Adam's brain into gear and get his tongue working again.

"Hey," he rasps, and the Empty cocks its borrowed head at him.

"Yeah?"

"I'm not leaving without him." Before he loses his nerve, and before the Empty can turn its annoyed expression into more pain for him, Adam adds, "I know you can't keep me here against my will, and I think that means you can't throw me out before I'm ready either. Otherwise you'd've done it the second you knew I was here."

Annoyance morphs into cold fury, which is how Adam knows he's guessed right, and the Empty snaps, "So?" Which Adam is okay with. Snapping at him is infinitely preferable to torture, even if listening to this thing spit venom at him and Michael is like nails on a chalkboard. "You don't think I can't make you so desperate to get out of here that you'll leave anything behind just to make the pain stop?"

"I mean, I definitely think you can. But I also think you'll crack first." Okay, so he's bluffing his ass off, he's probably not going to last five minutes if the Empty really puts its back into it, but he also played poker under the bleachers with his AP Calc classmates every Thursday lunch for a year, and cleaned them out more often than not.

"Hm. Tempting offer." Adam's mostly focusing on evening his breathing out from embarrassing gasps, but he feels cautious optimistic. "Tell you what, I'll make you a bet. You want to get him out of here, right?"

Oh thank fuck. "Obviously."

"Yeah, yeah, listen, you think that, but let's see how much you really want him." Adam's... pretty sure he knows the answer to that question. He's got this. "See, angels and demons, while they're here, they don't just sleep. They dream. Greatest regrets highlight reel, my specialty. You make it all the way to the end, you can keep him."

Adam does a mental inventory of his greatest regrets, and comes up with a couple times he was a dick to his friends, making himself an unintentional accomplice to the failed apocalypse, and not being able to save his mom. It's going to be a little painful, and probably a whole lot embarrassing, but he figures he can handle it. He's had a long time to make his peace with it all. "Deal."

The Empty gives him a sour smile. "Oh, not yours, kid. His. See whether you really want what you came all the way out here to get."

Adam's... Adam's not sure he wants to know what Michael's greatest regrets are. He's not sure Michael wants him to know what his greatest regrets are. But he's got to try.

"Deal," he says again, and the world goes white.

When he opens his eyes, at first it's hard to tell what he's looking at. The air is thick with smoke and the rubble around him looks almost indistinguishable from any rock-strewn section of desert. Then his eyes adjust, a little, and he picks out ruined foundations and tumbled walls and, scattered between them all, the charred corpses of an obliterated city. Flights of angels flicker through the air, telling him what's happened just as surely as the blackened eye sockets of the bodies all around him.

He can pick out Michael by instinct, even though the form he's wearing is shorter, darker-haired, olive-skinned and sharp-eyed and clad in gleaming bronze armor that's at least a couple millennia out of date. Adam would know the set of his shoulders and the twist of his grace anywhere, in any world, in any shape. He's standing squarely in the middle of a street running with blood, side by side with another angel, also armored, also holding a sword that drips blood to mix with the rivers coursing through the streets below.

"Fuck's sake, Michael," he whispers, but no one in the memory so much as blinks.

Adam can't hear what either of them is saying over the fire and crumbling buildings all around, but he knows that the words aren't important. He doesn't need it to know what's happened, and he doesn't need it to know what's about to happen. The important part is the boy sheltering in the corner of a torn-down house, half-covered by a fallen section of wall that's somehow kept him from being crushed entirely. He's staring at the angels with terror in every line of his horribly young face, one hand pressed tightly over his mouth, tears streaking from his eyes and tracking wet lines through the ash on his face. Adam looks away. He's heard this story before, but hearing it and seeing it are two different things, and he doesn't want to see this.

There's a voice in his ear, cold and harsh - the Empty, watching him even in Michael's dreams. "No cheating," it hisses, "watch."

"Fuck you," Adam snarls, but he steels himself and jerks his gaze back to the boy. He's not going to fuck this up for them so easily, won't let the Empty win so easily.

It plays out more or less how he'd heard it before. The other angel sweeps away in a blaze of wings and a flash of gleaming armor; the kid flinches. Michael catches the movement out of the corner of his eye and turns. Adam has no idea how he'd missed the kid until then, but it doesn't matter in the end. His eyes narrow and flash blue. The kid drops, light streaming from his eyes and mouth, too full of holy wrath to even scream. Then Michael flickers out of existence and Adam swallows, tasting bile. The scene changes before the kid's eyes have even stopped smoking.

It's another smiting, this one a young witch who'd broken some incomprehensible law of Heaven. Then a city, then a handful of families. Adam nearly loses track, but he knows it's only a fraction of the ones Michael has seen carried out, and he feels sick. As they switch focus to yet another body dropping lifeless to the parched earth, Adam finally snaps, "I know what you're trying to do." There's no answer from the cold voice in his ear, but he knows it's listening, and he keeps going even as they land in the middle of a burning house, blasted with Heaven's fire for a reason that isn't important. "You think we didn't trade histories in the Cage? He had a lot of stories to tell, and they weren't all pretty. Just because I'm seeing it for the first time doesn't mean I haven't heard about it. And screamed at him about it." Now they're standing in the doorway of a hut in a plague-stricken village. Michael, flaxen-haired and bone-pale in yet another vessel, strides through the desolate streets as corpses lie across every doorstep. Adam closes his eyes for a long moment and opens them again. "They're his regrets. You think I don't remember that? I'm not saying I'm happy about it, but he isn't either. I know what he did, and I know that if I'm seeing it here, it means he's not the same now. You're going to have to try harder than that to make me give up on him."

There isn't a verbal response, but the scene shifts obligingly. He's already preparing for another ravaged wasteland and Michael, cold-eyed and murderous, handing down God's judgement to the inhabitants, but he recognizes the white walls and the gilded crown molding of Heaven's holding tank. There's Zachariah, dead on the floor with his wings burned into the wall - and there's him, ten years younger, scared and still dripping blood at the mouth, beating at a locked door for all he's worth. And it's easy enough to say he left all of this in the past hundreds of years ago, but looking it in the face - he hates Zachariah in that moment, wishes he'd been the one to drive the blade through his skull instead of Dean, and he hates Michael too.

He thinks he hears the Empty laugh, but he's not - he's not giving up this easily. Just because he actually has to face up to it doesn't mean he's going to let it beat him. The light starts to stream into the room, the building thunder of Michael's approach coming fast on its heels, and just looking at the fear on his younger self's face Adam can feel it rising up old and bitter inside himself in answer. But he looks up instead and there -

There's Michael. Not his Michael, not the one softened by space and time and Adam's relentless irreverence and indignation, but the old one: proud, self-important, terrifying - and beautiful. Adam isn't going to lie to himself, even back then he'd thought he was beautiful.

Say yes, the Michael of his memories snaps coldly, in that voice that leveled cities, or I'll make what Zachariah did look like nothing in comparison. We're in a hurry. Okay, beautiful and an asshole, he does remember that part too.

"Michael," he says, on the off chance that the memory can hear him, that somewhere through the thick layers of dreams Michael can still him, that a prayer made in love can wake him up even from this. "Michael, you ridiculous asshole, I forgive you. For this, and all the rest of it." There's a flash of light as his younger self signs away the rest of his life, and Adam closes his eyes and holds onto the memory of years in the Cage, suffering through Hell together with only the unexpected gift of each other's company. "I forgave you for it all a long time ago, remember? I told you I'd let it go just the once, and you told me you'd never hurt me like that again. And then you went and died. And I - I forgive you for that too. Just let me bring you back."

He opens his eyes not to the dark of the Empty, as he'd hoped, but to the Cage. A lot more to go, then. They're arguing in Michael's memory, which probably puts them somewhere in the two-to-three-hundreds, after Michael had deigned to start having actual conversations with him and before he'd mellowed out a little from being such an insufferable dick. And yeah, Adam wouldn't do a lot of that over again if he had the chance, but it wouldn't come anywhere close to being on the list of things he regrets most. Hell, he'd kind of had fun after a while. Michael couldn't tell a joke from a doctoral dissertation back then (and, if Adam's being honest, half the time he still can't), but it didn't stop him from being accidentally hilarious sometimes.

"- don't understand why I should have to engage with the arguments of an insect without the good sense granted to the lowest orders of cherub," Michael snaps. Jesus, Adam doesn't even remember this fight. If he's going to have to sit through every single spat they had in the Cage, he's going to be here a long-ass time.

"You're one to talk! The insect wasn't the one in the driver's seat when we got dragged down here!"

Michael visibly bristles. With a few centuries' distance, Adam honestly just thinks it's cute. "I should just bury you in your own memories and leave you alone to rot," Michael hisses, and Adam's grin slips suddenly, in sync with the visible flash of fear across his younger self's face. Michael had stopped threatening to ditch him in the back recesses of his own mind pretty quickly, but yeah, it had been pretty scary the first few times he'd pulled that card out. He's pretty sure hundreds of years completely alone in there wouldn't have ended very well for him.

You think this is a foundation for a stable relationship? something asks, deep inside him, and as much as he wants to say it's the Empty getting into his head, he knows it's all him. Sure, he regrets it, but that's some hefty baggage.

"We'll figure it out," he says sharply, into the darkness. "Or, you know, we won't, but we'll try first. I'm not leaving him here." And the scene obligingly shifts.

For a moment he thinks the Empty has given up and is just going to barrage him with the rest of Michael's biblical smitings until he gives up and goes home. But something feels different about this one, despite the textbook blackened buildings and smoldering rubble. For one thing, there's just Michael - whether his forces have already left, or whether he came alone, he's the only angel left in the place. For another thing, there's one woman left crouched in the remains of a house - middle-aged, a few streaks of gray beginning to show in her dark hair, kneeling at Michael's feet. Three children huddle behind her, the oldest no more than eight or nine and the youngest still plump with baby fat. Adam watches with a dull sickness in his gut, ready for the flash of Michael's eyes that will end the whole thing.

Michael holds his sword loosely, unsheathed at his side and still streaked red with blood, but he doesn't raise it. Adam hears - understands, somehow, despite also knowing no one's spoken this language in centuries - "You have served my Father faithfully all your days." And he sounds almost - soft.

"I and my household," she whispers. 

"You and your household," Michael repeats. The sword hangs motionless beside him, neither raised nor sheathed. "A poor reward for a life of devotion."

The woman seems almost to shrug before she catches herself. "It was not done with the thought of reward."

And Michael smiles. Not the sharp-edged smirk of the conqueror, but a gentle thing that Adam only remembers seeing after centuries in the Cage. "No," he agrees. "Go in peace." His eyes spark and Adam's heart leaps into his throat, but the woman's face shows only wonder and joy. Blessing, not destruction. Michael is gone in a flash of wings but this time the scene changes with him, Heaven's halls marble-paved and gold-lined like he's only seen them in Michael's visions. It's a glory of columns and wide arches and angels everywhere, the faint threads of song echoing just above it all, but Adam only has a moment to be confused before there's a flutter of wings and someone is standing next to Michael, grave-faced.

"Raphael," he says, genuine warmth in his voice, and then checks, seeming to catch something in Raphael's expression that gives him pause. "What -"

"Our Father is gone."

The vision only lasts long enough for Adam to catch a glimpse of Michael's face, despair and grief buried beneath an entire ocean of guilt. He doesn't even have the time for the disappointment and the anger to really hit before they've moved on to the next memory.

He watches Michael admit for the first time that his all-knowing, all-good Father might be less than perfect, watches Michael give the Winchesters the spell to seal God away, and he wonders a little hysterically if there's even a single moment of his very long life that Michael doesn't regret. Knowing him, probably not.

"He's always going to be the loyal son," a cold voice whispers in his ear, but this time Adam knows it's something outside himself. "Whatever he says, he's wired to be obedient to his creator. He can't even help it. It's the only thing at the core of him. Every time he's tried to be something else, he's just hated himself for it five minutes later."

Adam doesn't dignify that with a response. The Empty retaliates by changing the memory again, this time to a scene that Adam doesn't recognize. A bright day, a sandy shore, Chuck Shurley calm and steely-eyed in front of Michael. A betrayal revealed, and the pain on Michael's face when he realizes even that wasn't enough to win the love of a hack author and a deadbeat dad without a fragment of love to spare for any of his creations.

Fissures of light spread through Michael's core and into the silence Adam finds himself whispering, almost drowned by the sound of Michael dying, "I forgive you." The memory doesn't stop, but Adam doesn't care, even if Michael can't hear or won't remember, it matters to Adam that he says this - "I forgive you. I want you to come back with me, I want to figure this out with you. I want to show you everything else there is that isn't him. There's a whole world that you're learning to have compassion for, I know you are, and I want to see it with you." Michael is more light than body at this point, and Adam can feel tears trickling down his cheeks despite his best efforts to hold them back. "Come home with me," he whispers, and Michael is gone.

For a moment, he's just standing there, blinking away tears as his eyes adjust from the brilliant flash that was Michael's death to the emptiness around him. And then his eye catches the slightest bit of motion in the blackness as Michael's sleeping form stirs at his feet. Take him, then, the Empty snarls, but Adam isn't listening because Michael is sitting up, eyes wide and glowing and then there's a question in his head, wordless and tentative and awestruck, and his mouth forms the yes without even thinking about it.

He hadn't realized how empty he'd been until he feels light running through every vein as gentle as a summer dawn, how alone he'd been until Michael's voice echoes in his head, familiar and bewildered, Adam? You were - what happened -

Take him and get out, the Empty hisses, all malice, and Adam doesn't need to be told twice.

"We're going," he says, quickly, and then he pushes at the blackness and there's a rush of sudden light, sharp-edged like needles, nothing like the gentle wash of Michael's grace tucked safe inside him. He fumbles the landing a bit, collapsing in a pretty inelegant heap all over the Winchesters' floor, but those weird Cold-War era lights are bright and warm and there are people rushing up to help him to his feet. A good thing too, because his vision swirls as a wave of screaming exhaustion slams abruptly into him like a truck. He's covered in disgusting black ooze and the lights are starting to make his head hurt, but Michael is warm and solid and thrumming steadily in time with his heartbeat, settled just under his ribs, and that's the only really important bit right now.

"I got him," he says, over the crowd of voices, "he's back. I'm going to go sleep for a week now." The last thing he feels is Michael's grace rushing up around him as he plummets deeper inside himself, soft and familiar and fiercely protective as he lets a much more welcome kind of nothingness take him.

Chapter Text

When he opens his eyes again, it's to the familiar eggshell white of their apartment ceiling overhead. Because he's fundamentally ridiculous and seems to have picked up nothing about normal human behavior from all their years together, Michael's laid him out like a corpse, flat on his back and arms ramrod straight at his sides. Still, he takes stock and realizes Michael at least remembered to take his shoes and socks off, and he's wearing a clean t-shirt and sweatpants instead of the same clothes he went into the Empty in. For Michael, that's a mile of progress.

He sits up, scrubs a hand over his eyes to get the last blur of sleep out of them, and finds himself face to face with Michael hunched like a mildly concerned gargoyle on the edge of the bed.

"Hey there." His voice doesn't rasp at all. Back to all the perks of cohabiting with an angel, then. "How long was I out?"

"A little under thirteen hours," Michael says. "You went into the Empty on Tuesday evening, came out early Wednesday morning, and slept until now." Which, okay, the last time Adam slept that long he'd been twelve years old and coming off a killer bout of the flu, but he figures wrangling a pissed-off cosmic entity probably ranks even higher than stomach bugs as far as good reasons to sleep in go.

"Huh." Sure enough, when he reaches up to pull up the blinds, the sun is just starting to set outside, the last rays of light catching on the edges of the windowpanes. He has a newfound appreciation for it, after so long wandering around in the pitch black of the Empty. "What'd I miss?"

Michael is quiet for a moment. "Nothing very important," he finally says. "Jack explained why you came for me and invited me to help with rebuilding Heaven, but I wanted to be sure you woke up safely first."

Adam can feel the goofy smile spreading across his face, but he also can't resist throwing a jab in anyway. "A gentleman never lets his lover wake up alone, huh? Unless he's busy being dead?" Michael goes rigid like a cat dropped in water, and Adam drops back onto the bed and laughs with his whole chest. He's going to get so much mileage out of getting Michael flustered. It's cute. He's cute. God's first angel, destroyer of worlds, and he blushes and starts when Adam cracks a joke.

"Adam, I'm so sorry -" Okay, not what he was going for, at least not until he's woken up the rest of the way.

"Hey, slow down, okay? I'm just glad you're back." He cranes his head up to smile at Michael. He still has some of that startled earnestness to him, but he nods slowly and that's good enough for Adam. "Cool. I'm going to make something to eat, we can talk about it then." That should give him enough time to wake up the rest of the way.

Michael trails him to the kitchen and sits a little awkwardly while Adam cobbles something together, more for the sake of doing it than anything. It'd been fun, actually needing to eat and stuff, but he's too relieved to have Michael back to even really miss it that much. Still, the rhythm is soothing, so he puts a pan on the stove to heat and grabs the last couple slices of bread from the cabinet. His eye catches on the coffeepot as he gets the butter and a knife from their spots at the end of the counter, and he remembers - "So you've got a nephew!"

Out of the corner of his eye he can see Michael tilt his head a little, considering. "I suppose I do," he says slowly, like he hadn't really considered it in those terms yet.

"Thoughts?"

"Well-intentioned." A brief pause, and then Michael adds, half under his breath, "Very, very young."

"He seems like a good kid." The butter is starting to pop in the pan, and he stacks the bread and cheddar for a quick grilled cheese and turns the heat down a little. They'll have to go grocery shopping in the next couple days, probably, although having Michael back has made that much less a matter of life and death.

"I think he is. His plans for Heaven are certainly more... centered in the interests of humanity than we were. It's likely for the best."

"Mm, right, you mentioned he wanted you to help with rebuilding. Are you going to say yes?" The edges of the bread are starting to brown a little, and he gives the sandwich an experimental nudge. Behind him, he hears a chair scraping back over the tile floor, and he turns to see Michael on his feet, looking mildly panicked, and he sets down the spatula and turns the rest of the way, suddenly confused.

"Of course. I - I've overstayed my welcome, I apologize -"

"Whoa, where's the fire? I just got you back, you haven't overstayed anything by a long shot."

Michael shifts, looking genuinely distressed, and Adam's good mood is rapidly fading into concern. "I don't understand what you want." Yeah, that makes two of them.

Adam scrubs a hand down his face, feels the weight just under his ribs that tells him Michael's still there, he hasn't disappeared yet, and as long as that's still true they can figure this out. "Michael, I've been awake for five minutes, you gotta be patient with the limits of the human mind." He pauses, reflects on the aftereffects of being twelve-hundred-odd years old and sharing a body with an archangel, and wiggles his hand. "Human-ish. Anyway. All I want right now is one quiet meal with neither of us dead or about to be killed by your dad. Then we can field trip to Heaven or Mars or wherever you want to go." His sandwich is going to overcook, but it's not important, it's not like he needed it to survive. He clicks the burner off and shoves the pan off the heat to make sure he won't turn around to a grease fire, and turns back around to assess the other probable fire hazard in the room.

Michael is looking at him with an expression not unlike that of a man clubbed upside the head with a length of lead pipe. "You want to come with me?"

"I mean, I don't have to." Adam had kind of figured they'd gotten past the whole thing with the divine mysteries too arcane for mortal man to know when Michael had started explaining the architectural history of Heaven to him six hundred years into the Cage, but whatever, new god new rules. "But you were - Michael, you were dead for a good couple days there. I kinda lost it, I'm gonna be antsy about you vanishing on me for a while."

"You... still want to be my vessel." Well, Adam hadn't expected that one to come up again, but sure.

"Uh, unless Dean did an about-face on the whole thing while I was asleep, yeah? I assume you still want one, and I assume you don't have the heavenly roster of other options handy these days?" At the incomprehensible look Michael's giving him, he adds, "Okay, I think we're missing each other somewhere."

He feels Michael's grace churning inside him for a split second before it all bursts out. "After everything that's happened?" Michael demands, something desperate and half-furious in his voice. "After I had you dragged out of Heaven only to pull you straight into Hell? After my father destroyed you and the rest of this planet because of my inaction? I'm grateful you brought me back from the Empty at all; to ask for more -"

"Michael, I love you." Into the shocked silence that lands on the heels of that, Adam adds, "I mean, yes, I'm a little upset about you getting us both killed, but we're both alive again and the world is - mostly intact. I forgave you the first time you gave the end of days a boost and fucked my life over, I can handle one more. Because I know you're trying to be better, and because I love you." The pause goes on long enough that he feels apprehension twist in his gut. "Unless you... didn't mean what you said in the Empty? It's fine, it was a weird time -" okay, it wouldn't be fine, he has no idea what he'd do in that case, but Michael had sounded serious -

"No!" Michael says, quickly, which is a relief. "No, I did, I - you love me?" And the wondering, disbelieving look is back. This, Adam thinks he knows how to deal with.

"Yeah," he says gently. "I do. C'mere, look for yourself." He hasn't done this in a while, because he and Michael usually like to keep a little distance between them just to keep themselves sane and preserve some of the illusion of privacy, but it still feels easy as breathing to lay out the core of himself, every thread of emotion gleaming fine as silver wire. The grief and anger rise easily to the surface, and he knows Michael can see them by the way his face twists into that quietly pained expression of guilt and self-deprecation. Adam doesn't let him wallow there. Deeper than that, he lets him see the waves of gentle affection, the joy and the wonder and a little bit of the hunger too, and Michael goes beet red and lets out a strangled little noise that's honestly adorable. Adam deliberately lingers there for a long moment, eyebrows raised, before he relents and adds, softly, "I don't go crawling through pitch-black hell-dimensions for people I don't love, Michael."

"Oh."

Adam can't help himself, he does laugh. "Yeah, oh, dumbass. What, you really thought I went through all of that just to kick you out -" and then Michael hits him with an equal burst of feeling and Adam really can't manage words anymore.

I meant it, he hears, echoing through himself, every word and more, let me show you. Michael is a torrent of light, vast and inhuman and mostly incomprehensible but Adam's always heard words where everyone else collapsed with bleeding ears and Adam's always seen the glittering beauty of Michael where everyone else went blind and he can feel the love rippling off him, woven through to the very heart of him. He catches devotion and longing and amazement, and he laughs between crying because it feels kind of absurd that Michael is somehow just as fascinated with him as he is with Michael. He doesn't have time to dwell on it for long, though, because Michael echoes back to him his own joy ringed around with tentative hope, and Adam can't help reaching out with all of him and pulling Michael closer, tangling him around every part of Adam's soul until it's almost impossible to tell where they both start and end.

"I love you," he says, feeling how very inadequate the words are after seeing the whole depth of Michael's heart spread out in front of him, but Michael still blossoms with joy around him like Adam's just given him the entire world in three words.

You did, Michael hums through the very core of his being, you did, you are, I would give you anything in exchange, all of myself for all of eternity, and Adam had no idea Michael was such a sappy bastard but he's two inches away from crying all over again.

"Start with dinner," he manages, and then takes in the slightly scorched bread and cold, rubbery cheese, and reconsiders. "Okay, maybe not dinner, but - stay. Just stay."

Michael's expression is achingly soft and just a little awestruck. I will, for as long as you'll have me.

"Okay." He feels his throat tighten a little, and has to swallow a couple times before he can speak again. "Okay, that's good." There's a shiver of light along the edge of his soul, where Michael's coiled up with him, warm and sweet and achingly soft. 

I'm sorry about your sandwich.

Adam huffs out a startled laugh. "It's okay." They relax back into comfortable silence, drifting loose and light in the space between them. Adam doesn't think he's going to get tired of this as long as he lives, which is probably going to be a pretty long time now. He's looking forward to every second of it.

There's a moment's pause as Michael seems to be gathering himself up to something. Adam lets him, wondering what deeply romantic sentiment he's going to come out with this time, but mostly just basking in the wash of pure love eddying between them. That's why it catches him entirely off guard when Michael, the edges of his grace almost tentative but still distinctly teasing, pushes the echo of a very different sort of hunger back at him. It's gone almost too quickly for Adam to catch, but he thinks he's about got the gist of it. 

"You -" he manages, between sputtering and coughing. The emotions rippling off Michael are entirely too smug, and Adam doesn't waste a moment before their arms are around each other, lips meeting clumsy and awkward but they're both too caught up in their riotous, almost scalding joy to care even a little bit. Michael's grace is singing, exultant and alight like Adam's never seen it before. He wants it to last forever, and he wants to bottle this moment and tuck it away somewhere inside himself so he'll never forget it, and he wants -

I'm here, Michael whispers, I'm here, you have me forever, and at the end of the day, that's what Adam wants more than anything else. They've got each other and a second chance, past all doubt or regret or fear. Adam smiles into the liquid-sunlight wash of Michael's grace, and lets forever roll in.