Ever wonder what it would feel like to wake up in a brand new body all your own? Michael's about to find out!
For a long time, there was nothing. He was nothing.
After quite a while longer, there was darkness. And with it came silence.
Perceptions. And an improvement over the nothingness. So he concentrated on them.
It was dark and it was quiet but, eventually, something broke through the silence.
The sounds of a set of lungs pulling a feeble breath in, then pushing the same feeble breath out. And when he followed it to its source, he found it was coming from his own chest.
It was dark and the sound of his own breathing was the only-
No... there was more. He could hear the incessant prattling of a voice. Human and soft and unobtrusive. Not there to disturb.
It was dark as ever but he was breathing and a human was somewhere near at hand. Speaking low and paying him no mind.
He would pay it no mind in return.
It was then, with a mind fuzzier than he could remember it ever in his long, long life having been, he realized that the darkness was all the fault of his eyes being shut.
He didn't try to open them. Feeling instinctively that they wouldn't listen regardless.
As if responding to that most morbid of thoughts, a flurry of sights and sounds rushed their way into his mind in an incomprehensible jumble. But the mad rush soon slowed and so, with a protracted moment spent ordering the abrupt return of memories, he found himself caught up on recent events.
It was then the archangel was forced to consider his two most likely scenarios: that either the no doubt now over and done with transference had been a success... or else the spell had proven itself too much too soon and burned the comatose hunter's battered soul from their shared vessel completely. Because, for the first time in far, far too long, Michael was unequivocally, blessedly, alone.
Alone in his vessel. Alone enough for his thoughts not to have to push for privacy in an overcrowded thinking space.
...Alone enough that he no longer had the eldest Winchester boy's presence as an additional layer of protection against the whims of hunters whose worlds he'd more than once threatened with extinction.
Yet, that soft voice continued. Unconcerned and unconcerning. Not a hint of malice nor fear. In fact, the timbre was almost... warm. Calm and content as it went on and on and-
"Michael, go back to sleep," came a second voice, this time from so close that Michael would have jumped clear out of the bed he hadn't noticed he'd been lying in if he'd been able. For he'd not sensed the presence. Not in the slightest. And as close as the other clearly was, that he'd been oblivious was just as worrying as the fact that his eyes were now outright refusing to open.
Belatedly, he noticed that the soft voice had stopped immediately after the closer, gruffer had started.
Now it was truly quiet. All except for the thrum of the heart beating harder and harder in his chest, pushing blood faster through fingers that refused to so much as twitch; arms absolutely leaden where they rested over light sheets; legs that may as well have been strapped in place; a body that wouldn't move.
"Michael, it's alright," started again that all too close voice. This time tinged in something resembling... concern. "You're in your new vessel. The transference was a success."
Oh. Then the Winchester wasn't dead and gone after all, the archangel thought, focusing to bring his strange, new, reactionary heart down from its frantic staccato to something halfway acceptable.
"Yes, Dean is also fine," confirmed the-
In that moment, Michael became aware of just how painfully frazzled he must still have been, for it was a baldfaced fact that the owner of that voice hovering by his side couldn't have been any other than the hapless, pathetically softhearted, lesser angel known as Castiel.
The lesser angel he was beginning to suspect was in fact listening in to his- his, an archangel's, private thoughts.
"Yes, I am," stated with not a hint of repentance. "You were beginning to wake, so I thought it prudent," the reprobate informed, finishing with what sounded like a sigh born more of exhaustion than anything else.
"Your new vessel spent the last few months in a coma brought about by severe intracranial trauma. You can't move because, even with the highly effective repairs Rowena and myself have already enacted, your vessel's brain is still having difficulty making its old connections work again."
Michael couldn't help but cringe internally at the news.
"Yes, my sentiments exactly. But just as Dean will require time to heal from... these same last few months, so will you. With sufficient rest the both of you will see marked improvement in no time. Rowena and myself will see to that."
Michael offered the inferior heavenly being a single, solitary scoff for his troubles. Knowing, though the sentiment never reached air, that the eavesdropper would indeed receive it.
"Sleep now, brother. Your vessel requires rest."
To that, the archangel offered another scoff. Making clear his disinterest in doing any such thing.
He felt his mind flinch though when, accompanied by a long suffering sigh, an unwelcome pair of fingers lit upon his forehead.
Before Michael could voice his vehement protest to the action, there came an angelic pulse and he found himself unable to resist as his consciousness was pushed back whence it had come. Back to that perception-less place he'd dragged himself from. Back to that empty void of a place he was beginning to suspect was in fact that lowliest of astral plains. The one which humans referred to as 'sleep'.
He was going to get the angel for that.
When next Michael woke, he was immediately aware of two other life forces. Both within ten feet of himself and both completely relaxed. One asleep, the other droning on about... some rat made of stainless steel, bent on saving the world.
A more ridiculous notion he'd never heard.
"Michael?" The voice asked, breaking from its steady rhythm at a sound the archangel belatedly realized had sprung from his own throat. A sound uncomfortably close to a chuckle.
He felt his vessel stiffen when footsteps started in his direction. A defensive hand twitched when the figure stopped just out of arm's reach. And, triumph of triumphs, his eyes opened when he told them to. Though, no wider than would allow him make out a shadowed silhouette above and to one side. Leaving the entity blurred and anonymous.
"Well, you're looking better," said the darkened figure. Voice retaining its lowness but somehow missing most its hitherto characteristic softness. "Still can't control your new body though, can you? Poor thing."
'Poor thing'. A designation the archangel could never have anticipated a human would someday ascribe to him, of all beings.
Still, he couldn't shake the feeling, somewhere deep in his vessel's gut, that the hard way it was used meant the one with the glint of gold to their hanging, shadowed hair didn't mean it. Perhaps, had said it in taunt more than in pity.
"Are you disappointed?" Asked the human, moving close enough to touch. "I know I'd be. After all, it's a shame: you needing time to heal like this," she, Michael realized, said. In a way that made it clear she wasn't as regretful as her words. "But I propose we take advantage of this opportunity and use this as a learning experience. After all, how often is an archangel this... defenseless?"
Michael heard the edge to the hunter's last word. Understood it for the play at intimidation that it was. And at first, he dismissed it for the bluff it so obviously was.
But then he saw the figure move. Slowly. Deliberately. Threateningly. One hand coming up into his line of sight, purposefully drawing his attention to it before moving closer. Inching towards him with a quiet air of menace. Coming straight for his face.
There was an involuntary closing of eyes, his vessel's attempt to protect them, then the most pathetic of flinches as that uninvited, unknown hand... brushed its fingers through the hair along his vessel's imperceptibly creased brow.
Then a second time. Movements more sure and less calculated, knowing there would be no retaliation for it.
The superior being wasn't sure whether the responsive quickening of his heart and lungs was a reflex born more of indignation... or something else entirely.
Either way, his every nerve was absolutely seething at the mere thought, the implication that this- this heretic dare lay a hand on his divine personage.
He wouldn't stand for it.
Willing his eyes back open, the fuming archangel sought out the figure above him and willed his thus far unused face to mirror, best it could, the hatred swirling underneath its virtually undisturbed surface.
"Oh, sorry, I forgot you don't like being touched," the woman said in response, sounding as if she was in fact very much the opposite of 'sorry'.
In answer, Michael mustered the strength to force a noise of rebuke from his otherwise uncooperative throat. Understanding the futility of it when the hand paused not more than a second before continuing its infuriating petting.
"We both know there's nothing you can do to stop me," the mortal asserted, tone a hair from downright smug. "But this is were the learning happens. Because what you're going through right now? That feeling of powerlessness, of knowing you don't get a say in what's happening around you, of not being able to control your own body? That's how it feels to be possessed. That's how Dean —my son— felt. For months."
Oh. This was the Winchester matriarch. Taking advantage of his weakened state. All but threatening to reap vengeance on her son's behalf in a move so very different from- so much more hard-hearted than anything Michael had seen from her youngest. Or from her feathered compatriot, for that matter.
And she was doing it well.
"Castiel thinks you'll be up and at 'em in a couple days," continued the woman still disarranging and rearranging the hair the archangel had yet to style for himself. Ministrations stilling before she brought her head down low enough to whisper into his vessel's ear. "For your sake, you better hope Dean is too."
Then, with one more deceptively innocuous brush through his unkempt fringe, the hunter stepped back and away. Letting the threat be the end of their one sided interaction.
Soon she had taken a seat and was back where he'd first sensed her. Then the woman was picking up and rustling something that sounded like it was made of paper.
Only when her soft prattle had started once again did the archangel understand that she was reading from a book. And had been for quite some time.
From that he was able to infer the identity of the third soul, close by the reader's side: it was the woman's eldest son. And Michael's former, tattered, worn out, prison of a vessel. A vessel he was decidedly not regretting being through and done with. Even if he truly was now open to retaliation from this crueler hunter's vengeful whims without it.
As Michael sequestered the reading of that ridiculous story to the background of his awareness, he allowed himself a moment of amusement at the thought. After all, something he had never expected had been brought to his attention: that there was one amongst those bleeding-heart Winchesters who possessed a backbone after all.
He couldn't help the sound of mirth that escaped his throat at the revelation.
"Go back to sleep, Michael," ordered the hunter, barely breaking from her reading to do so. Voice far less harsh than the archangel might have expected.
Still, perhaps the woman was right. More of that so called 'sleep' had already improved his vessels responsiveness. More would be bound to do the same.
So without further prompting, the archangel followed the slowing rhythm of his hibernating system. Hoping that when next he woke, it wouldn't be with a knife to his throat.
Wow. Mary's hardcore. And weirdly enough, Michael seems to respect it. Even if she had to threaten him to prove it. XD
Also, in case anyone was interested: The book Mary was reading is The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World by Harry Harrison, published in 1972. I figured, being a hunter and all, she'd have liked the main character and his methods, seeing as he's a master thief who ends up saving the world (more than once). Plus I thought she'd probably be more likely to read her kids sci-fi than fairytales anyway!
In publication order, this would be the third book in the series and if anyone's looking for a good sci-fi, I personally ate those things up! :D